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Letters from 

Joseph Conrad 


Edited with Introduction and Notes 

Edward Garnett 



The Bobbs-Merrill Company 

Printed in the United States of America 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


OF THIS volume, Letters from Joseph Conrad, thirty-one 
have been selected by Monsieur G. Jean-Aubry and published 
in The Life and Letters of Joseph Conrad. 1 The others are 
new. Apart from other points of interest it may be said that 
this series supplies at first hand fuller and closer information 
about the first four years of Conrad's work, after he had 
turned author, than can be gathered from his letters to others. 
I met Conrad first as the "publisher's reader" who had rec- 
ommended Almayer's Folly, and as the earliest of his literary 
friends he turned to me first for criticism and advice. He 
showed me the manuscript of everything he wrote up to 
November, 1898. I thus saw and commented on in turn 
An Outcast of the Islands, Tales of Unrest, The Nigger of 
the Narcissus, The Rescue first draft, and the tentative 
chapters of The Sisters. The first hundred letters, chiefly 
filled with Conrad's literary development and his difficulties 
in composition, show in detail his struggles, his hopes and 
fears, his dejections and exultations from month to month. 
More than twenty years later when Conrad wrote the Pre- 
face to the Collected Edition (1920), his memory naturally 
failed to recall many facts and details preserved by these let- 
ters, e. g. f -his chronology of the composition of Tales of Un- 
rest is wrong. My own memory certainly did not retain a 
tithe of the details which the letters set down. They fill out 

1 Copyright, 1927, by Doubledny, Fnga and Company. 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

my general recollection that as regards Conrad's work, 
ninety- five was a leisurely year, ninety-six was a strenuous, 
prolific year, while ninety -seven and ninety-eight were years 
of struggling anxiety, years largely wasted by his unavail- 
ing labor over The Resue, till with The Heart of Darkness, 
begun in December, 1898, Conrad suddenly found the chan- 
nel clear and forged ahead. 

As I have said I first met Conrad in November, 1894, 
some months after I, as Mr. Fisher Unwin's "reader," had 
written one of my hasty, perfunctory "reports" and had ad- 
vised the acceptance of Almayer's Folly. My friend, Mr. 
W. H. Chesson, whose duty it was to take charge of the 
manuscripts, tells me that he called my particular attention 
to the manuscript. My wife recollects that I showed her the 
manuscript, told her it was the work of a foreigner and 
asked her opinion of his style. What particularly captivated 
me in the novel was the figure of Babalatchi, the aged one- 
eyed statesman and the night scene at the river's edge be- 
tween Mrs. Almayer and her daughter. The strangeness of 
the tropical atmosphere, and the poetic "realism" of this 
romantic narrative excited my curiosity about the author, 
who I fancied might have Eastern blood in his veins. I was 
told however that he was a Pole, and this increased my in- 
terest since my Nihilist friends, Stepniak and Volkhovsky, 
had always subtly decried the Poles when one sympathized 
with their position as "under dogs." Since I spent the 
greater part of every week in the country I rarely made the 
acquaintance of authors whose manuscripts I had read, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

But on this occasion Mr. Fisher Unwin arranged a meeting 
between Conrad and me at the National Liberal Club. On 
the last Christmas before his death, Conrad described to 
Mrs. Gertrude Bone his recollection of this first meeting, 
and I quote from the account she has sent me. 1 My memory 
is of seeing a dark-haired man, short but extremely graceful 
in his nervous gestures, with brilliant eyes, now narrowed 
and penetrating, now soft and warm, with a manner alert yet 
caressing, whose speech was ingratiating, guarded, or brusk 
turn by turn. I had never seen before a man so mascu- 
linely keen yet so femininely sensitive. The conversation 
between our host and Conrad for some time was halting and 
jerky. Mr. Unwin's efforts to interest his guest in some po- 
litical personages, and in literary figures such as John Oliver 
Hobbes and S. R. Crockett were as successful as an attempt 
to thread an eyeless needle. Conrad, extremely polite, grew 
nervously brusk in his responses, and kept shifting his feet 
one over the other, so that one became fascinated in watching 
the flash of his pointed, patent leather shoes. The climax 
came unexpectedly when in answer to Mr. Unwin's casual 
but significant reference to "your next book," Conrad threw 
himself back on the broad leather lounge and in a tone that 
put a clear cold space between himself and his hearers, said, 
"I don't expect to write again. It is likely that I shall soon 

1 "The first time I saw Edward," he went on, "I dare not open my mouth 
I had gone lo meet him to hear what he thought of Almayer's Folly I saw a 
young man, enter the room. That can not be Edward so young as that, I 
thought. He began to talk. Oh yes ! It was Edward I had no longer doubt 
But I was too frightened to speak But this is what I want to tell you, how 
he made me go on writing If he had said to me, 'Why not go on. writing?' I 
should have been paralyzed, I could not have done it. But he said to me, 
'You have written one book. It is very good. Why not write another?' Do 
you see what a difference that made? Another? Yes, I would do that I 
could do that. Many others I could not. Another I could. That is how Ed- 
ward made me go on wnting. That is what made me an author " 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

be going to sea." A silence fell. With one sharp snick he 
had cut the rope between us, and we were left holding the 
loose end. I felt disappointed and cheated. Mr. Unwin ex- 
pressed some deprecatory ambiguities and then, after turn- 
ing his falcon-like glance down the long smoking-room, apol- 
ogized for having to greet some friends in a far corner 

Directly he had left Conrad and me alone speech came to 
me in a rush. I may have been as diplomatic as Conrad has 
recorded. 1 What I then said to him with the fervency of 
youth would seem to me a little bizarre now, had I not 
caught myself the other day, thirty years later, addressing a 
young author with much the same accents and convictions. 
But I spoke then with youth's ardent assurance. My thesis 
was that the life Conrad had witnessed on sea and land must 
vanish away into the mist and fade utterly from memory, 
did he not set himself to record it in literature. And Almay- 
er's Folly showed that he had the power. Conrad listened 
attentively, searching my face, and demurring a little. It 
seemed to me afterward that he had come to meet me that 
night partly out of curiosity and partly as an author who 
deep down desires to be encouraged to write. And the credo 
he heard matched his conviction that it was the thing that 
one could do that mattered. This credo about artists in gen- 
eral, and Conrad in particular the curious will find set forth 
in a paper written in 1897 in The Academy. 2 It was no 
doubt partly my curiosity about Conrad's life as a sailor in 
the Eastern Seas that winged my words, and curiously the 

1 Author's Note to An Outcast of the Islands, Collected Edition, 1Q1: 
"A phrase of Edward Garnett's is, as a matter of fact, responsible for this 
hook " Com ad has, however, misdated the conversation which took place at 
our first meeting, 

2 An Apftreaatiott of Mr. Joseph Conrad reprinted in Friday Nights. 1922. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

heavy, middle class atmosphere of the National Liberal 
Club with its yellow encaustic tiles, cigar-smoke, provincial 
members, political gossip from the "lobbies," and business 
news "on the tape," jarred less and less in the presence of 
this stranger who charmed one by something polished and 
fastidious in the inflections of his manner. Yes, he had "the 
temperament." After Mr. Unwin's return the talk naturally 
fell to an ordinary level and shortly afterward we bade our 
host good night and Conrad strolled some way with me on 
my way past the brilliantly lighted Strand. Our relations 
had been settled for good by this first contact. 

We did not meet again for some weeks, when Conrad in- 
vited me to spend the evening with him at 17 Gillingham 
Street. After dining in a private room at a Wilton Street 
restaurant where an obsequious Italian waiter dashed up- 
and down-stairs all wreathed in smiles, I was introduced to 
Conrad's snug bachelor quarters where, having placed me in 
an easy chair, Conrad retired behind a mysterious screen 
and left me to study the coziness of the small firelit room, a 
row of French novels, the framed photograph of an aristo- 
cratic lady and an engraving of a benevolent imposing man 
on the mantel-shelf. On a little table by the screen lay a 
pile of neat manuscript sheets. I remained conscious of 
these manuscript sheets when Conrad reappeared and 
plunged into talk which ranged over things as far removed 
as the aspects of Malay rivers and the ways of publishers. 
Conrad's talk that night was a romance, free and swift; it 
implied in ironical flashes that though we hailed from differ- 
ent planets the same tastes animated us. To no one was the 
art of harmonizing differences so instinctive when he wished 
to draw near. To no one was the desire of emphasizing them 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

more emphatic, when he did not. There was a blend of 
caressing, almost feminine intimacy with masculine incisive- 
ness in his talk; it was that which gave it its special char- 
acter. Conrad's courtesy was part of his being, bred in the 
bone, and serving him as a foil in a master's hand, ready for 
attack or defense. That first evening he took from the 
mantel-shelf and showed me the portrait of his mother with 
her sweet commanding eyes, and told me that both she and 
her father, a poet and translator of Shakespeare, had been 
arrested at the time of the Polish rising of 1862, and had 
afterward been sent into exile. Of himself Conrad spoke as 
a man lying under a slight stigma among his contemporaries 
for having expatriated himself. The subject of Poland was 
then visibly painful to him, and in those early years he would 
speak of it unwillingly, his attitude being designed to warn 
off acquaintances from pressing on a painful nerve. Later 
he grew less sensitive and in a letter in 1901, he sketched at 
length his family history and connections. 

In response to this first confidence about his family, 
thrown out with diffidence, I gave him some idea of my own 
position, which, at that time, as indeed later, was peculiarly 
isolated. A stranger to editors and to literary cliques I had 
no influence outside the publishing firm I worked for; but I 
could and did give new authors encouragement and practical 
advice about placing their work. My few literary friends 
were struggling young men, such as W. B. Yeats, men abler 
than myself and not so unskilled in the methods of success. 
My six years' work as a publisher's reader had taught me 
fully the anxieties and the hazards of the literary life, but 
youth believes instinctively that luck is on its side, and I had 
been lucky in finding authors for Mr. T. Fisher Unwin, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

However, to Conrad, ten years my senior, and incomparably 
more versed in worldly affairs, the ways of publishers, re- 
viewers and editors were then an uncharted land, and his 
first view of New Grub Street, as he put it later to me was 
"as inviting as a peep into a brigand's cave and a good deal 
less reassuring." When later that evening, I had recurred 
to the subject of Almayer's Folly, Conrad suddenly picked 
up the pile of manuscript sheets from the little table and 
told me that he had embarked on a second book, and that I 
should live to regret my responsibility for inciting him. This 
charming flattery was very characteristic of Conrad. Plac- 
ing the manuscript in my hands he retired behind the screen 
and left me to glance through the pages. By the time he 
had reappeared with a bottle of Benedictine I had been cap- 
tivated by the brilliant opening of An Outcast of the Islands. 
I exclaimed with delight at the passage: 

They were a half-caste, lazy lot, and he saw them as they 
were ragged, lean, unwashed, undersized men of various 
ages, shuffling about aimlessly in slippers; motionless old 
women who looked like monstrous bags of pink calico stuffed 
with shapeless lumps of fat, and deposited askew upon de- 
caying rattan chairs in shady corners of dusty verandas; 
young women, slim and yellow, big-eyed, long haired, mov- 
ing languidly amongst the dirt and rubbish of their dwellings 
as if every step they took was going to be their very last. 

Conrad, exhilarated by my praise, then described his idea 
of the down-hill path of Willems and foreshadowed Aissa's 
part in the drama. The plot had already taken shape in 
Conrad's mind, but most of the action was still in a state 
of flux. Conrad's attitude to An Outcast was from the first 
a strange blend of creative ardor and skepticism. He spoke 


Letters from Joseph" Conrad 

deprecatingly of his knowledge of Malay life, but all the 
same the figures of Willems, Joanna and Aissa captivated 
his imagination. His sardonic interest in Willems' disinte- 
gration reflected, I believe, his own disillusionment over the 
Congo.. 'I agree with Monsieur Jean-Aubry that Conrad's 
Congo experiences were the turning-point in his mental life 
and that their effects on him determined his transformation 
from a sailor to a writer/ According to his emphatic declara- 
tion to me, in his early years at sea he had "not a thought in 
his head. ... I was a perfect animal," he reiterated, mean- 
ing of course that he had reasoned and reflected hardly at 
all over all the varieties of life he had encountered. /The 
sinister voice of the Congo with its murmuring undertone of 
human fatuity, baseness and greed had swept away the gen- 
erous illusions of his youth, and had left him gazing into the 
heart of an immense darkness./ But Willems' figure was not 
merely the vehicle for Conrad's sardonic irony, but through 
it Conrad had to express also his own "romantic feeling of 
reality," and so this character had to bear too great a burden 
both of feeling and commentary. I do not think that this 
criticism was ever formulated exactly by either Conrad or 
myself during the nine months in which An Outcast came 
to me in batches. He was too engrossed in wrestling with 
his characters to see precisely the effect of all the parts in 
relation to the whole, and I was too enthralled by the strange 
atmosphere and poetic vision, and too intent on encouraging 
him to criticize Willems till the end was at hand. I well re- 
member penciling notes of admiration on the margins of 
certain pages, as on those poetical passages that conclude 
Part II. On the delivery of the final instalment, however, 
I criticized adversely the psychology of Willems' motives 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

and behaviour just before his death at Aissa's hand; and 
Conrad agreed, with reservations, to my strictures and set 
to work to remodel various passages. I think now that my 
criticism was not so just as I imagined at the time. Probably 
no record exists now of the cancellations and emendations 
made by Conrad in the last chapter (See his letter, Septem- 
ber 24, 1895). 

However, to come back to that first evening at Gillingham 
Street, I recall that Conrad took alarm at some declaration 
of mine about the necessity for a writer to follow his own 
path and disregard the public's taste. His tone was em- 
phatic. "But I won't live in an attic," he retorted. "I'm 
past that, you understand? I won't live in an attic! " I saw 
then that it was essential to reassure Conrad about the pros- 
pects of Almayer's Folly. And I cited the" names of various 
authors who, whatever they may have been doing, were cer- 
tainly then not living in attics, public favorites such as 
Stevenson and Kipling and Rider Haggard the work of the 
last-named, I remember, Conrad stigmatized as being "too 
horrible for words." He objected specifically to the figure 
of Captain Goode, as well he might! As I look back at 
that evening and at our subsequent meetings in little Soho 
restaurants, in Newgate Street, St. Paul's Churchyard and 
in a Mecca cafe in Cheapside, I recall an atmosphere of 
humble conspiracy a deux, which enfolded us. Humble, 
since Conrad was then more obscure than any publisher's 
reader. At that time he was experiencing all the hot and 
cold fits and the exultations of literary creation, often 
thrown back and skeptical, but also boyishly eager while per- 
fecting his strokes and broadening his efforts as the novel 
grew under his hands; and I was taking this development of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

his genius for granted and was enthusiastic over the romantic 
magic of his scenes. My part indeed was simple to appre- 
ciate and criticize all that he wrote, and to ask for more, 


While Conrad's brilliant charm arrested our notice in 
those early years, the depth of his creative vision eluded us. 
In his voice we heard the seaman and the artist speaking, 
but the poet, secretly inspiring the finest subtleties of his 
work, remained unseen. ,- From what I gathered, then and 
since, of Conrad's parents I believe that from his mother he 
inherited his caressing sweetness, and from his father his 
sharp and somber insight, with its fierce sardonic underplay. 
There were two natures interwoven in Conrad: one, feminine, 
affectionate, responsive, clear-eyed; the other, masculine, 
formidably critical, fiercely ironical, dominating, intransi- 
gent.i Often the sweet mood would change in a flash, and 
with an upward fling of the head he would stare hard with 
wide-opened sardonic eyes at the perpetrator of some fatuity 
or sentimental falsity. His eyes would grimace ironically, 
and he would boil over suddenly while attempting to con- 
ceal his violent distaste; and the person who had awakened 
this mood would go away and circulate some alarming legend 
about his intractability. ! In the impetuosity of his prejudiced 
judgments, Conrad had a streak of Lieutenant Ferand, but 
also the contemplative wisdom and clarity of vision of Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert, those two immortal creations of his own. 
His fine courtesy kept his Polish impetuosity in check in 
those early years, but he resented bad manners when ad- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

dressed, and I remember how the slighting remarks of a Mr. 

N at a National Liberal Club meeting in 1895 so chafed 

on him that he would have sent the speaker a challenge had 
the country been France. But unless offended or rubbed 
the wrong way he was as sympathetic and as softly respon- 
sive to people as a sensitive woman. I remember being 
struck by this quality one day in the summer of 1897, when 
he had taken me for a sail in the boat that he shared with 
his old sailor friend, G. F. W Hope, at Stanford-le-Hope. 
The plan was to land at some jetty lower down the Thames, 
but the wind kept dying away on each occasion as we tacked 
and neared the bank, and we lay becalmed for over an hour 
in the hot glare. Hope, disdaining to put out an oar, Conrad 
deferred like a young sailor boy, with alacrity to his least 
wish and drew him out in talk with a fine tact, while whis- 
pering to me that to row the boat ashore was unthinkable, 
for such a proceeding would wound Hope's pride as a sea- 
man 1 

Conrad's moods of gay tenderness could be quite seduc- 
tive. On the few occasions that I saw him with Stephen 
Crane he was delightfully sunny, and bantered "poor Steve" 
in the gentlest, most affectionate style, while the latter sat 
silent, Indian-like, turning inquiring eyes under his chiseled 
brow, now and then jumping up suddenly and confiding 
some new project with intensely electric feeling. At one of 
these sittings Crane passionately appealed to me to support 
his idea that Conrad should collaborate with him in a play on 
the theme of a ship wrecked on an island. I knew it was 
hopelessly unworkable this plan but Crane's brilliant vis- 
ualization of the scenes was so strong and infectious I had 
not the heart to declare my own opinion. And Conrad's 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

skeptical answers were couched in the tenderest, most reluc- 
tant tone. I can still hear the shades of Crane's poignant 
friendliness in his cry "Joseph!" And Conrad's delight in 
Crane's personality glowed in the shining warmth of his 
brown eyes. When Conrad wished to surrender himself to 
anybody he did it single-heartedly in irresistible fashion. I 
remember on the occasion of a visit which he and Jessie Con- 
rad paid to the Cearne in 1898, coming suddenly on him and 
my son David, aged six, sailing in the grass plot in a big 
zinc tub, rigged up with a broomstick, a table-cloth and a 
clothes-line. The illusion of a real boat was strangely com- 
plete, with Conrad shifting the sheet in the breeze, going on 
fresh tacks, while giving sharp orders to the boy crew in 
nautical language. 

This gay buoyancy of spirit, while more in evidence in 
early years, contrasted curiously with the antithetic mental 
atmosphere of Conrad's sardonic brooding and disenchant- 
ment with life. The serious, contemplative stare Conrad's 
features often assumed in repose, with a shade of saturnine, 
is well rendered in Miss E. M. Heath's portrait of him, 
done in 1898, a likeness which he himself declared bore a 
strong resemblance to his father. The portrait does not 
however convey the extraordinary soft warmth of Conrad's 
eyes, which always struck me when talking with him. The 
painting was executed in a single sitting at the Cearne 
while I tasked myself to entertain him. One of my anec- 
dotes drew from him the following: "Yes, dear Edward. 
But have you ever had to keep an enraged negro armed 
with a razor from corning aboard, along a ten-inch plank, 
and drive him back to the wharf with only a short stick in 
your hands?" 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

But to recur to the temperamental moods that blend in 
Conrad's creations and endow them with the most complex 
'qualities, one may say that the Korzeniowski parental side, 
with its "terrible gift of irony" rules, as the astrologers put 
it, over the majority of the pages of The Secret Agent, and 
that his Bobrowski heritage rules similarly over most of the 
pages of The Mirror of the Sea. Of course these are ap- 
proximate labels, but Monsieur Jean-Aubry tells me that 
the letters to Conrad from his maternal uncle, Thaddeus 
Bobrowski, attribute certain of Conrad's traits to his Kor- 
zeniowski inheritance. 

One of the finest examples of the fusion of the two 
moods in Conrad's temperament, to my mind, is that ex- 
ample of his Polish virtuosity, his story The Duel. That 
brilliant, gay, ironical masterpiece has been underrated be- 
cause the Anglo-Saxon is temperamentally unsympathetic 
to its qualities. I once witnessed a ludicrous interview be- 
tween Conrad and a certain, hard, north-country English- 
man who shall here be nameless. Conrad, for an admirable 
reason, was anxious to propitiate his host, but his ingratiat- 
ing manner roused the Englishman's suspicions, and the 
latter became stiffer and harder, while Conrad struggled 
bravely to disarm his insular doubts. It was a relief to both 
of us when we had bowed ourselves out from this dour north- 
countryman's presence. 

Great quickness of eye was one of Conrad's gifts. I re- 
member while sitting one evening with him in the Caf 6 Royal 
I asked him, after a painted lady had brushed haughtily past 
our table, what he had specially noticed about her. "The 
dirt in her nostril," he replied instantly. On this acute sense 
rested his faculty of selecting the telling detail. It was an 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

unconscious faculty, so he said. I remarked once of the first 
draft of The Rescue, that as a seaman he must have noted 
professionally the details of the rain-storm at sea described 
in Chapter III. Conrad denied this, and asserted that all 
such pictures of nature had been stored up unconsciously in 
his memory, and they only sprung into life when he took up 
the pen. 

That Conrad's memory had extraordinary wealth of ob- 
servation to draw on, I had an illuminating proof in Heart 
of Darkness. Some time before he wrote this story of his 
Congo experience, he narrated it at length one morning 
while we were walking up and down under a row of Scotch 
firs that leads down to the Cearne. I listened enthralled 
while he gave me in detail a very full synopsis of what he in- 
tended to write. To my surprise when I saw the printed 
version I found that about a third of the most striking inci- 
dents had been replaced by others of which he had said 
nothing at all. The effect of the written narrative was no 
less somber than the spoken, and the end was more consum- 
mate, but I regretted the omission of various scenes, one of 
which described the hero lying sick to death in a native hut, 
tended by an old negress who brought him water from day to 
day, when he had been abandoned by all the Belgians. "She 
saved my life," Conrad said, "the white men never came 
near me." When on several occasions in those early years I 
praised his psychological insight he questioned seriously 
whether he possessed such a power and deplored the lack of 
opportunities for intimate observation that a sailor's life had 
offered him. On one occasion, in describing to him a ter- 
rible family tragedy of which I had been an eye-witness, 
Conrad became visibly ill-humored and at last cried out with 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

exasperation, "Nothing of the kind has ever come my way! I 
have spent half my life knocking about in ships, only getting 
ashore between voyages. I know nothing, nothing! except 
from the outside. I have to guess at everything! " This was 
of course the artist's blind jealousy speaking, coveting the 
experiences he had not had, and certainly he could have 
woven a literary masterpiece out of the threads I held, had 
he ever known the actors. 

I may here note that Conrad's "strong foreign accent" in 
March, 1893, to which Mr. Galsworthy has testified in his 
Reminiscences of Joseph Conrad, seemed to me only slight 
in November, 1894. But when he read aloud to me some 
newly written manuscript pages of An Outcast of the Islands 
he mispronounced so many words that I followed him with 
difficulty. I found then that he had never once heard these 
English words spoken, but had learned them all from books 1 


Conrad's slow progress in increasing his circle of readers 
demands some explanation. Nineteen years of arduous 
work (1895-1913) failed to bring him into real popularity. 
It was not the fault of the reviewers. His work was too 
"exotic" for British insular taste. From the first he received 
eulogistic notices, but it is forgotten that several score of 
Conrad's popular contemporaries were also then receiving 
notices as, or more, flattering. Good reviews of "exotic" 
novels do not excite general interest, and it is probable that 
the figure of the lady on the "jacket" of Chance (1914) did 
more to bring the novel jnto popular favor than the long re- 
view by Sir Sidney Colvin in The Observer. In any case the 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

fact that the critics' handsome praise of Almayer's Folly 
failed to sell the novel is attested by my old friend, Mr. 
David Rice, then Mr. Fisher Unwin's town traveler, who at 
my instigation had prevailed on the booksellers to subscribe 
practically the whole edition. Mr, Rice tells me that the ma- 
jority of these copies rested for years on the booksellers' 
shelves, and that the title Almayer's Folly long remained a 
jest in "the trade" at his own expense. Conrad's first book 
took seven years to get into the third impression and both 
An Outcast of the Islands, which received brilliant reviews, 
and Tales of Unrest took eleven years to reach a second im- 
pression. Even worse, relatively, was the case of The Nig- 
ger of the Narcissus (1897) which in spite of a general blast 
of eulogy from a dozen impressive sources, including James 
Payn, A. T. Quiller-Couch, W. L. Courtney, and the advan- 
tage of its serialization in W. S. Henley's New Review, took 
sixteen years to reach its third impression! While Lord 
Jim, doing better, had to wait nine years (1904-14) to pass 
from the fourth to the fifth impression, and Youth (1903) 
took six years to pass from the second to the third. 

After the further revision of the last chapter of An Out- 
cast of the Islands when he wrote (letter, September 24, 
1895), "I shall set to at once and grub amongst all these 
bones/' Conrad took a spell off from writing and when he 
began again he found it impossible to make headway with 
The Sisters. He was so depressed by his position that he 
explained to me his hopes of getting a command at sea and I 
wrote to a friend of my wife, Mr. Charles Booth the ship- 
owner, to try to interest him in Conrad's future. Mr. 
Booth's reply throws light on Conrad's own proposal: 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

24, Great Cumberland Place, W. 
22 Feb. 1896 
Dear Mr. Garnett, 

I am afraid I can do nothing to help Mr. Conrad. I wish 
I could. He certainly can write and it seems very hard if 
he cannot find present living with hope of future fame in his 
pen. He must be a very remarkable man. 

The plan of a captain taking a share of the vessel he com- 
mands with the management is I believe common, but such 
work lies outside of my own experience. Such vessels are 
often called "family ships" being got up in that way amongst 
those who are related to each other. The Welsh do it a good 
deal and the Norwegians still more. It needs for success a 
closer eye for small economies than is found amongst the 

But there may be better chances of success in the South 
Seas with which Mr. Conrad is evidently acquainted. 

I do not suppose it would be possible for him to step into 
a regular command amongst strangers without beginning as 
mate and waiting his chance and while mate there would 
be no opportunity for writing. 

I wish I had had anything more encouraging to say 

It is curious and rather melancholy that almost everyone has 
a discouraging word to say against the work with which he 
is most closely connected in these overcrowded days. 

However it is I hope Mr. Conrad will continue to write 

Yours sincerely 


Conrad's light-hearted reply, February 22, 1896, about 
the cast-iron impudence of his soul was characteristic; and 
he then confided to me the news of his approaching marriage, 
and soon brought down Miss George to the Cearne to see my 
wife. Conrad's ultra-nervous organization appeared to 
make matrimony extremely hazardous, but his instinct 
proved right, and Jessie Conrad's temperament was perfect; 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

calming him and taking the daily trials and rubs of life off 
his shoulders. But I do not think that Jessie or anybody 
not a writer could understand the extraordinary nervous 
strain and agony which composition imposed on Conrad, in 
those early years. He has expressed this with his incompar- 
able power in vaiious letters to his intimate friends. And I 
will quote a few lines from his letter of August 5, 1896: "I 
have had bad moments with the Outcast but never anything 
so ghastly, nothing half so hopeless. When I face that fatal 
manuscript [The Rescuer] it seems to me I have forgotten 
how to think worse! how to write. It is as if something in 
my head had given way to let in a cold grey mist. I knock 
about blindly in it till I am positively physically sick and 
then I give up saying tomorrow! And tomorrow comes 
and brings only the renewed and futile agony." But these 
days of writer's paralysis alternated with others of creative 
fecundity. Conrad, during the same period (May- July, 
1896) had written in Brittany The Idiots, ten thousand 
words, An Outpost of Progress, nine thousand five hundred 
words; and The Lagoon five thousand seven hundred words, 
in August, in the intervals of sitting day after day, for two 
months before the manuscript of The Rescuer "powerless to 
invent or add a single word." Before he stopped dead by 
June tenth, he had however written and dispatched to me 
the last portion of the first draft, one hundred and three 
pages of The Rescuer. Had I suspected the long Odyssey 
of acute distress and worry that Conrad was to undergo 
over The Rescuer (not published till twenty -three years 
later), I would, of course, have persuaded him to abandon 
the book. But this draft of Part I was powerful and orig- 
inal, and I wrote him two enthusiastic letters, May 26 and 
June 17, 1896, part of the first of which I give here: 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

The Cearne. 
May 26, '96 

Excellent, oh Conrad. Excellent. I have read every 
word of The Rescuer and think you have struck a new note. 

The opening chapter is most artistic; just what is right 
for an opening chapter. The situation grips one with great 
force. It is as clearly and forcibly seen as if one had spent 
a month on those seas (that is the highest praise). You 
bring before one wonderfully the sense of boredom, the op- 
pression of the stillness and the heat, and all the monotony 
of life. And then the etching of the mate's portrait and the 
description of the crew is very finely done up to your best 
level. I think it will strike the Public too (the great gross 
Public that you accuse me of knowing! ) as very interesting 
and very fresh. 

I enclose some hasty criticism mere whims of mine on 
only minute points. The only page I would like to see al- 
tered is page 1. There the description, the tone seems to 
me not up to your level. The feeling though poetical 
seems a little forced, a little dragged out of you, a little over- 
elaborated and not in keeping with the clear realism of all 
the forcible, vivid 24 pages that follow" etc. 

"But oh! can't I be bad! Can't I," he answered on June 
second, and on June tenth when sending me the last pages he 
asked me to say if he was on a wrong track. My answer and 
my commendation of The Idiots some weeks later, reassured 
him. He wrote, July twenty-second, "After reading your let- 
ters I don't touch the ground for three days," and he sent me 
An Outpost of Progress, adding in his shamelessly flattering 
way, that he had written it especially for me! But he added 
the serious news that an old friend he loved had been unfor- 
tunate in his business affairs and that in consequence he, 
Conrad, had lost his little capital. 

In the letter of August fifth, referred to above, he had de- 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

plored that "the belief, the brazen, thick-headed, thick- 
skinned immovable belief" was not in him. For many, many 
hours I sat with Conrad in those early years trying to as- 
suage his doubts, fears and anxieties about his writing pow- 
ers. I remember one such occasion, particularly: it was at 
the Cearne on a warm night, September, 1898, when we sat 
long in the porch in the lamplight, smoking and arguing, 
while the moths fluttered into our glasses; and at length 
after midnight Conrad, exasperated, got to his feet, saying 
sarcastically, "It's indecent! I shall not forgive you for 
letting me unburden myself like this I Why didn't you stop 
me'" We were worn out, I by his desperation, and he by 
rny sympathy! 

y-'I must add a word here about Conrad's play of irony. 
He was so perfect an artist in the expression of his moods 
and feelings that it needed a fine ear to seize the blended 
shades of friendly derision, flattery, self-depreciation, sar- 
donic criticism and affection in his tone. /And so with his 
early letters, many of which show a wonderful chameleon- 
like quality, sometimes both parodying his own admissions 
and turning the light of his irony from himself on to his 
correspondent. One must guard one's self against taking his 
moods, his flatteries, his cries of distress in his Letters either 
too absolutely or too lightly. The publication of his Letters 
has shown what a variety of appealing tones Conrad had at 
his command both when addressing old friends and new 
acquaintances. So with the private compliments he pays his 
fellow authors. The reader needs to be something of an 
artist himself to appreciate the shades of pleasing flattery on 
Conrad's palette. He says in a letter of March 11, 1911, 
"It's easier to make phrases about things that hit and glance 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

off, and as to things that miss me of which I only feel the 
wind, so to speak, I could write politely by the yard of 
them." Sometimes Conrad did write by the yard, so to 
speak, especially toward the end of his life, when his facility 
was assisted by the necessity of dictating his correspondence. 
Conrad's return from Brittany in September, 1896, came 
to me in the form of a message "When are you coming up 
to London. . . . When? How? Will you see me? Are 
you well? Have you time? Have you the wish?" At our 
meeting I found him very concerned about his prospects. 
In his six months' stay in Brittany he had earned about 
seventy- five pounds for three short stories. The Rescuer 
was at a standstill, and he had written ten pages of The Nig- 
ger of the Narcissus. The loss of most of his little capital 
made it imperative that he should receive better payment 
for his work, but all that Mr. Fisher Unwin would offer him 
was fifty pounds on account of a ten per cent, royalty on the 
first two thousand copies the same terms as for An Out- 
cast of the Islands, and Conrad demanded one hundred 
pounds on account. On my advice Conrad held out for these 
terms, but Mr. Fisher Unwin refused to go beyond his orig- 
inal proposal. I do not blame Mr. Unwin : I am told that the 
sales of Conrad's three early books showed a loss, in the pub- 
lisher's ledger, for many years. But it was imperative that 
Conrad should find another publisher with faith in his future, 
and I now suggested that he should negotiate with Messrs. 
Smith Elder & Co., who had sent him flattering inquiries 
about his next book. I did not know till twenty years latei 
that it was Mr Roger Ingpen who, impressed with An Out- 
cast of the Islands, had urged Mr. Reginald Smith to make 
overtures to Conrad. Alas! Mr. Reginald Smith, that ex 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

lawyer, with his bland, mellifluous flow of compliments to 
authors (later I experienced them on Kropotkin's account), 
offered Conrad nothing more substantial than a fifty pounds 
immediate advance on a higher royalty; and he also advised 
him to put his book of short stories "away for a time." This 
would not do at all, and I then went to S. S. Pawling, of 
Heinemann's, and put the case frankly before him. Paw- 
ling, "a good sort," as authors said, of whom I will speak in 
another place, though overshadowed by his partner Heine- 
mann, was alive to the opportunity of getting hold of Conrad, 
and he sent him reassuring messages, saying that he would 
show the portion of the manuscript of The Nigger of the Nar- 
cissus to Henley for publication, and that, anyway, Conrad 
might expect better terms than Mr. Unwin had offered him. 
The six letters from Conrad to me, November twenty-fifth- 
January tenth, when he was struggling day and night to fin- 
ish The Nigger of the Narcissus, show that those seven weeks 
were perhaps the most strenuous in the whole of his writing 
life. The story of the finish of Nostromo as detailed in a 
letter of September 2, 1903, to John Galsworthy has in- 
deed an impressive epic quality, but Conrad's place as an 
author was then assured. And had Conrad failed to "bring 
off" The Nigger, or had the novel missed fire, in the re- 
viewers' eyes, as many a masterpiece has done, nothing more 
disheartening for Conrad and ominous for his future could 
be imagined. The prospect, indeed, looked alarming for an 
almost penniless author. But Conrad, inspired by his devil, 
did not falter. His heart was in his work. After a reassur- 
ing message from Henley I brought Pawling and Conrad 
together in a dinner at the Hotel D'ltalie and what I remem- 
ber of the evening is that Pawling succumbed wholly to the 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

charm and the talk of this strange seaman author. Conrad 
continued his desperate struggle for another month, and in 
his letter of January 10, 1897, is the cry of victory. "And 
the end! I can't eat. I dream nightmares and scare my 
wife. I wish it was over! But I think it will do ! It will do! 
Mind I only think not sure. But if I didn't think so I 
would jump overboard." But the end did not come till Jan- 
uary seventeenth when, after finishing The Nigger, Conrad, 
exhausted, took to his bed for two days. But, as he said, it 
was a cheap price for finishing that story. 

After a short spell of rest Conrad began a story, "a Malay 
thing," Karain, which he thought would be easy to write and 
might bring in "a few pence." 1 On February twenty-eighth, 
in sending me part of the manuscript, he tried an old trick of 
his by asserting he would burn it at my command, but if I 
said "Correct Alter" he would refuse to do so. However this 
draft of Karain was not satisfactory and Conrad set to work 
to remodel the tale. It took him six weeks to finish "that 
infernal story," which he never liked, and when finally he 
forwarded it to Mr. Fisher Unwin to serialize it if possible, 
he asked me, April twentieth, to "read it specially because 
it is your advice that has reshaped it and made it what it is 
in good." I remember leaving 11 Paternoster Buildings, a 
few days later, in Conrad's company and halting on the 
pavement opposite Newgate Prison, while jostled by the pass- 
ing crowd, I declared positively that Karain was destined 

1 In the Author's Note to Tales of Unrest Conrad says, " 'Karain' was be- 
gun only three days after I wrote the last lines of "The Nigger '" But his 
letters to me show that he was then collapsed and "doing nothing yet " His 
memory betrayed him here, as it did more conspicuously in the Author's Note 
to The Rescuer where he gives various reasons for not returning to The 
Rescuer, whereas his letters show that he was struggling ineffectually to write 
The Rescuer, off and on, for a year and a half 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

by Providence for Blackwood's Magazine. For some reason 
Conrad never forgot this Newgate Street prophecy and re- 
curs to it fourteen years later "it is you who turned Karain 
on to Maga. with inspired judgment." But in fact I be- 
lieved then it was a case of Maga. or nothing. However 
when Blackwood's did accept the story, Conrad refused the 
terms offered, and insisted on forty pounds as its price, which 
Blackwood's agreed to pay on condition that Conrad should 
give it the refusal of any short story he might write. Thus 
began Conrad's connection with Blackwood's. 

These details are only worth resurrecting to show the state 
of protracted tension and anxiety as to the salability of his 
work which Conrad suffered from in 1897. He received 
forty-five shillings per thousand words from Maga., and 
since Karain had taken him two months to write he had 
earned scare sufficient to keep the wolf from the door of 
"Ivy Walls" to which house he had moved on March thir- 
teenth, from the jerry-built little villa in Victoria Road, 
Stanford-le-Hope. I well remember the creaking boards, 
flimsy staircase and pokiness of that temporary dwelling 
place which stood indistinguishable from its fellows in a 
genteelish row. Ivy Walls, an old farmhouse with its low- 
ceilinged, quiet rooms, was a far more congenial abode, 
and there Jessie Conrad entertained one with amusing anec- 
dotes of the bean-pickers who slept in the barn and secreted 
the farmer's hens for the sake of breakfast eggs. 

To return to Karain, Conrad's letters to me show that he 
had not, as Mr. Munro states in his Introduction to the 
Nigger of the Narcissus, Memorial Edition, "thrashed out 
for himself theories and convictions on the art of fiction 
through years of concentrated lonely thoughts at sea," Con- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

rad worked by intuition after a preliminary meditation, just 
as his criticism of other men's work was intuitive and not the 
fruit of considered theory'. He was, of course, always inter- 
ested in literary technique and good craftsmanship, such as 
Flaubert's and Maupassant's: he said, May, 1898, of the lat- 
ter's Bel-Ami, "It's simply enchanting to see how it's done." 
But he never theorized about technique and many lears later, 
on asking me why I had never written on the art of fiction 
and receiving my reply that the subject was too difficult 
for my brains, he declared that it was also too difficult for 
his and that he had never formulated any rules for his own 
practice. His method of narrative, in the first person, 
through the mouth of Marlow, was first employed in Youth; 
it came natural to him; it saved trouble; and finding that it 
answered both there and in Heart of Darkness he elaborated 
it further in Lord Jim. I remember Conrad, one day, when 
he was depressed at his lack of popular success, throwing 
down some miserable novel by Guy Bothby, which he vowed 
he would imitate, saying: "I can't get the secret of this fel- 
low's manner. It's beyond me, how he does it!" Turgenev's 
technique he declared was inimitable, because he got effects 
by phrases deceptively simple. He instanced Paklin's drive 
in the carriage with Sipyagin (Virgin Soil, Chapter XXXIV) 
as a scene exquisitely done. His admiration for Henry 
James' short stones was, I believe, called forth by that 
master's delicacy of touch. A letter to me, February 13, 
1897, emphasizes this, and about this time he gave me a 
copy of The Lesson of the Master and instanced the story 
"Brooksmith" as a tour de force. Bernard Shaw he could 
scarcely read for impatience, and he remarked to me on 
one occasion, "The fellow pretends to be deep but he never 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

gets to the bottom of things but rides off on some tricky 

The last five months of 1897 Conrad spent in wrestling 
with The Rescuer, "often restraining tears, never restraining 
curses," and in writing The Return, which is without ques- 
tion the least convincing of his stories. He had discussed 
the subject with me in the spring, but when I received the 
manuscript at the end of September, the effect of the whole 
seemed strangely unnatural, and the treatment over logical. 
Conrad metaphorically tore his hair, admitted that he knew 
that there was something wrong with it all the time, and de- 
claied that he felt all I said, but all the same he remained as 
much in the dark as though I had spoken an impassioned 
dialogue in Chinese! He sent the story about to various 
editors, but nobody would accept it, and it was printed as 
the fifth story in Tales of Unrest which book Conrad sold 
to Mr. Fisher Unwin for fifty pounds or sixty pounds down 
on account of a twelve and one-half per cent, royalty. The 
Nigger of the Narcissus was published in the first week of 
December, 1897, and received twenty-three reviews, one in- 
different, one bad, two or three hesitating and the rest "un- 
expectedly appreciative." Pawling had introduced Stephen 
Crane to Conrad in October and in a letter of December fifth 
following, the latter writes of Crane, "he is strangely hope- 
less about himself ... he is the only impressionist and only 
an impressionist." The year ended with the deceptive news 
*'I am writing The Rescuer. I am writing! I am harassed 
with anxieties but the thing comes out." Eighteen hundred 
ninety-seven had been an unprolific year for Conrad, due to 
the curse of impotence which paralyzed his brain when he sat 
down to The Rescuer, but he had formed the connection with 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Blackwood's which was to lead him to contribute two of his 
brilliant stories, Youth and Heart of Darkness, and the novel 
Lord Jim which he originally planned as twenty thousand 
words. And here I may bring to a close this cursory sketch 
of Conrad's first books. Although he had said in August, 
1897, "You know very well I daren't make any move without 
your leave," rny advice, as his literary friend and critic was 
in fact now becoming unnecessary. Apart from The Rescuer 
which he continued to send me, chapter by chapter, he had 
confidence in himself and was receiving encouragement from 
various quarters. When Conrad was particularly pleased 
with his work he pooh-poohed it in his letters "This is the 
sort of rot I am writing now," he says for example about 
Heart of Darkness, and again, "I send you second install- 
ment of 'Jim' which is too wretched for words." After The 
Rescuer for many years to come, he no longer sent me his 
manuscript for private criticism, though Letters from Joseph 
Conrad will show that we remained in close touch about his 
work up to the end. 

The letters to his intimate friends reveal marvelously 
Conrad's personality, his buoyant temperament and resilient 
moods, his uncanny insight, his skeptical faith and philo- 
sophic irony, his charming frankness and great affectionate- 
ness, his flashing wit, his humor, often playful, often fiercely 
sardonic. His generous warmth of feeling for his friends, 
new or old, rushes out now spontaneously, now super-pol- 
ished, so to say, by his Polish habit of paying everybody flat- 
tering compliments. This impulse, like the Irish habit of 
saying agreeable things to the newcomer, appears at times a 
little disproportionate, but it was a characteristic racial trait 
and an expression of his warm temperament. His letters to 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

. - ' 

me are most characteristic, now exuberant, now subtle, now 
direct. He once told me that it was a great relief to him 
not to have to maintain the beauty of his script when he 
wrote to me. 

In the period 1902-1914 there were years when we saw 
little of each other. To each of us time brought fresh claims, 
the constant ties of work and of family habits, with new 
friends and new commitments in life, but these did not di- 
minish our settled affection and old confidence. Conrad had 
faith in my criticism, and the reviews I wrote of various of 
his books from 1900 to 1914 reaffirmed the bonds of our old 
friendship. When worldly success came at last to Conrad 
it increased his desire to refer to the old days and to remind 
one of any offices done him in the early years of authorship. 
Loyalty to memories of the past and to the men he had 
worked with at sea and on shore was a deep abiding trait in 
his nature. 

On the last visit I paid to "Oswald's" Conrad had been 
fatigued, I think, in the week, by visitors, transatlantic and 
others, pressing in with their homage and after our last 
hour's talk together something moved me as we said good 
night, to put his hand to my lips. He then embraced me 
with a long and silent pressure. The next morning as we 
stood talking in his study, when the car was announced, he 
suddenly snatched from a shelf overhead a copy of the 
Polish translation of Almayer's Folly, wrote an inscription 
in it and pressed it into my hands. When I looked I saw that 
the date he had written in it was the date of our first meet- 
ing, thirty years back. 




4th Jan. '95. 
17 Gillingham St. 

Coming home after a late prowl I found your good letter. 

Let me thank you without delay for this fresh proof of 
that interest you have been good enough to take in my ven- 
ture. Whether the book 1 is reset or no the fact of your 
interference in the matter remains also the pleasure it has 
caused me. 

I intended to write you next week but as it is I may say 
it now. I wanted to ask you to name a day next week or 
week after next in fact when you like when you would 
dine with me. I have no engagements At least no engage- 
ments that couldn't be shied overboard at any time without 
disturbing the harmony of the universe. And would you 
mind then traveling as far as 17 Gillingham Street? (Vic- 
toria) . The country is quiet just now hereabouts and the 
inhabitants have given up the practice of cannibalism, I 
believe, some time ago. Name day and hour. 

I have no doubt that Mr. Chesson will handle A's Folly 
very tenderly. I shall send on the preface tomorrow (Sat:). 

Your book not there yet. You prod my curiosity. To me, 
attempt is much more fascinating than the achievement be- 
cause of boundless possibilities; and in the world of ideas 
attempt or experiment is the dawn of evolution. 

Once more thanks! 

Yours very faithfully 

77" , J- CONRAD 

i Almayer's Fotty. J 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Tuesday evening 
17 Gillingham Street 


[January 8, 1895.] 

Your date and hour will do very well. I shall be in the 
City on Wednesday week and if you are there also on that 
day perhaps I may pick you up somewhere on my way to 
the wild west? If this proposal unacceptable don't trouble 
to say so. I shall understand if I don't hear from you that 
I am to wait for you at home at 7 pm: 

I have your book; 1 have read it once and now am strolling 
backwards and forwards with great delight amongst 
your words, your sentences and your thoughts. 

You no doubt have the gift of the "mot juste," of those 
sentences that are like a flash of limelight on the facade 
of a cathedral or a flash of lightning on a landscape when 
the whole scene and all the details leap up before the eye in 
a moment and are irresistibly impressed on memory by their 
sudden vividness. But of that more when we meet. Now I 
want only to say that "An Imaged World" charmed my eyes 
with a charm of its own distinctly. 

Yours very faithfully, 


1 An Imaged World, Poems in Prose. By Edward Garnett. Dent 1894, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

17 Gillingham St. 

S W. 

[March 8, 1895.] 

I send you 4 chapters of the "Outcast" who as you will 
perceive is very much so. More than ever. Your talk 
yesterday put so much life into me that I am reluctantly 
compelled to suspect you of good nature. Do not be offended 
for I do not mean any harm in charging you with such a 
"bourgeois" (or Philistine) failing. Even our friends are 
not perfect! This world is a dreary place and a prey to 
minor virtues. A dreary place unless a fellow is a Willems 
of some kind and is stuffed full of emotions without any 
moral when he may discover some joviality or other at the 
bottom of his load of anguish. But that's a lottery; an illegal 
thing; the invention of the Devil. 

In chap. XII beginning with the words: 
"And now they are . . ." are the two pars in the new 
style. Please say on the margin what you think. One word 
will do. I am very much in doubt myself about it; but where 
is the thing, institution or principle which I do not doubt? ! 
I shall advise you by autograph of my return from the 
Cont: because the fashionable intelligence of the Pall Mall 
[Gazette] neglects me in a most unaccountable way. Till 


Yours J. CONRAD 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Friday morning 
17 Gillingham St. 


[March 13, 1895.] 

I arrived from Brussels about an hour ago and found your 
letter. I've read it with my hat on, rug over the arm, and 
umbrella hanging by its tassel-string to my finger. Then I 
undressed, unpacked and before breaking bread read once 
more. I could not have had a more charming welcome. To 
be read as you do me the honour to read me is an ideal 
experience and the experience of an ideal; and as I travel 
from sentence to sentence of your message I feel my un- 
worthiness more and more. Your appreciation has for me all 
the subtle and penetrating delight of unexpected good for- 
tune of some fabulously lucky accident like the finding of 
a gold nugget in a deserted claim, like the gleam of a big 
diamond in a handful of blue earth. 

Theory is a cold and lying tombstone of departed truth, 
(for truth is no more immortal than any other delusion). 
Yet a man is nothing if not perverse. That's why Willems 
lies buried under my pet theory even while I stand by, 
lamenting and grinning with the spade in my hand I cannot 
weep, by all the devils 1 I cannot even sneer at my dead. All 
you say is true. All, Absolutely and the only thing that I 
can think of is to administer to myself a moral bastinado 
say five hundred on the soles of my unsteady and erring 

Having propitiated you by the barbarous cruelty of my 
punishment I prefer my request. Will you meet me next 
Thursday? any time after six. Or name a day and the time 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

that would suit you best. We shall not talk of Willems. Just 
simply dine feast of body not of soul. Soul be hanged! 

Yours very faithfully 


This is only to let you know that letter and MS received 
also that your words have not fallen into barren ground. 
The crop will ripen in good time. You shall see. 

May 1st 1895 
17 Gillingham St. 

6. Am. 

I am going to look for Willems in Switzerland. It is writ- 
ten. I go! today at 9 am. 

I resolved yesterday. Called on F.U. who says Henley 
can't read more than 60 pages of the immortal work 1 after 
which he "lays it down." Despair and red herrings! Suicide 
by thirst on Henley's doorstep no. Emigration to Champel 
and hydropathy when return with Alpenstock branded (un- 
truthfully) "Monte Rosa" and brain the sixty-page-power 
Henley. Cause Celebre. Fame. Therefore I go, Tuan! 

Seriously, I find I can't work. Simply can't! I am going 
to try what mountain air combined with active fire-hose 
(twice a day) will do for divine inspiration. I shall try it 
for about 3 weeks and maybe the lenient gods will allow me 
to finish that infernal Manuscript. Sorry can't send you 
the 4 chaps. Just come from type not corrected. I shall 
(mem) take them with me and when back administer to you 
the whole of the poison in one large (and therefore merciful) 

1 Almayer's Folly. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I take advantage of your friendly disposition towards my 
unworthy self to ask you for news of Aim. in about a fort- 
night. Speak true talk to him who has been raised from the 
dust by your merciful hand that is : say what You think of 
the chances. 1 
Address. J. Conrad 
La Roseraie Yours ever faithfully 

Champel J. CONRAD 


12th May 1895 
Champel. Geneve 

Thanks for your friendly letter It gave me great pleasure 
tho' your Highness was pleased to jest, and notwithstanding 
sombre allusions to "dead lions" which by a fatal association 
of ideas caused me to think of myself as a "live donkey." 
Still, being alive is something. I shall let you know when I 
come back but I do not for a moment wish to suggest the 
propriety of you hiring a few of the unemployed to bestrew 
the path of my fourwheeler with rushes and thistles. I wish 
to return to London incognito. Respect this! (as in the for- 
mula of the edicts of that poor dear Emperor of China) 

I am working every day: tolerably bad work. Like poor 
Risler the Elder's cashier "I haf no gonfidence."" Some 

1 Almayer's Folly had just appeared Its reception by the reviewers was 
generally favorable The Daily Chronicle saying, "Mr. Conrad may go on, 
and with confidence . he will find his public and he deserves his place'' ; The 
Saturday Review, "Almayer's Folly . will certainly secure Mr. Conrad a 
high place among contemporary story-tellers"; The Spectator, "The name of 
Mr Conrad is new to us but it appears to us as if he might become the 
Kipling of the Malay Archipelago " 

2 -Allusion to Alphonse Daudet's Fromont juenc et Riskr tint, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

people I have sent the book 1 to wrote very kindly. They 2 
seem rather surprised and I am amused. 

I dread the moment when you shall see my "Outcast" as 
a whole. It seems frightful bosh. I never felt like that even 
in the first days of my "Folly." 

Meantime I live lazily and digest satisfactorily. At my 
age that last is important. Do not laugh. Your time will 
come. Slowly I hope. 

I see you have lighted your camp fire in a new place. I 
shall dwell here for another fortnight. 

Yours ever 


Friday, 7th June 95 
17 Gillingham St. SW 

You must think me as faithless as Willems and think of 
me as hiding the blackness of my soul in epistolary silence. 

I came back last Tuesday and called upon the Enlightened 
Patron of Letters. 3 Meant to call again in Pater- er Bdgs 
yesterday to see you. I received in the morning an invitation 
by wirel 111! to dine with the E.P.L. and had to waste all 
my day to find a man, just to tell him I could not see him. 
Do you understand the pathos of the situation? I had ac- 
cepted the electric invitation having forgotten a very good 
fellow that was coming to smoke with me in the evening. It 
was easier, then, to put him off than the Patron. 

So I have added the festive and hospitable board of "my 

* Almayer's Folly 

z Very probably his uncle in Poland or some relatives of his. 

8 Conrad's pet name for his first publisher, Mr. T Fisher Unwin. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

publisher" to my other experiences and life seems tolerably 
complete. What else may I expect? What else that is new? 
Don't you think, dear Garnett, I had better die? True 
there is love. That is always new or rather startling being 
generally unexpected and violent and fleeting. Still one 
must have some object to hang his affections upon and I 
haven't. Oh! the world since this morning is one big grey 
shadow and I am one immense yawn. Do come to the rescue 
early next week and put some heart into me with your dear, 
precious brazen flattery. Will you? If so please say so. 
Say when, and I shall try to go to sleep till then. 

The Patron has sent me McCarthy's 1 letter. I was as 
pleased as a dog with two tails till the notion came that it 
may be the white-bearded one's small joke. Perhaps the 
venerable man of politics felt frivolous. The letter seems to 
me at times as weird and unreal as Irving's knighthood. 
Isn't it funny? The whole thing is so characteristic of the 
Art, or profession or priesthood or by whatever name you 

call playacting. I have smiled several times. Mr. 

Brodribb in the part of Sir Henry Irving 1 Hang it. Now if 
that astonishing Lord Rosebery gives a peerage to Sir John 
Falstaff and makes Bardolph Secretary of State, it will put 
the finishing touch to the fairy tale of the most misty and 
elusive administration of this practical country. 

I have 6 more chapters for you and the end is not yet. 



i Mr. Justm McCarthy, M. P. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

1 7 Gillingham St. 

[July, 1895.] 

Can we meet this week? Any day but Saturday and any 
time from 6 p.m. And if not this week then let it be the next 
when all the days belong to me. 

I suffer now from an acute attack of faithlessness in the 
sense that I do not seem to believe in anything, but I trust 
that by the time we meet I shall be more like a human being 
and consequently ready to believe any absurdity and not 
only ready but eager, Perhaps I will be able then to let 
you see 2 more chapters. I would like you to see them be- 
fore I write any more. I have now 400 pages of MS. and 
the end is not yet! 

Still I think that 50 pp more ought to see the end of the 
coming failure. 

Yours ever 


17. Sep. 1895 
17 Gillingham Street 


It is my painful duty to inform you of the sad death of 
Mr Peter Willems late of Rotterdam and Macassar who has 
been murdered on the 16th inst at 4 p.m. while the sun shone 
joyously and the barrel organ sang on the pavement the 
abominable Intermezzo of the ghastly Cavalleria. As soon 
as I recovered from the shock I busied myself in arranging 
the affairs of the two inconsolable widows of our late 
lamented friend and I am glad to say thatwith the help 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

of Captain Lingard who took upon himself all the funereal 
arrangements everything was decently settled before mid- 
night. You know what strong affection I had for the poor 
departed so you won't be surprised to hear that to me since 
yesterday life seems a blank a dumb solitude from which 
everything even the shadows have completely vanished. 

Almayer was the last to go, but, before I succeeded in get- 
ting rid of him, he made me perfectly wretched with his 
grumblings about the trouble and expense connected with 
the sad event and by his unfeeling remarks about the de- 
ceased's little failings. He reviled also Mrs Willems, who 
was paralysed with grief and behaved more like a cumber- 
some dummy than a living woman. I am sorry to say he 
wasn't as sober as he ought to have been in these sad con- 
junctures and as usual he seemed not aware of anybody's 
grief and sufferings but his own which struck me as being 
mostly imaginary, I was glad to see him go, but such is the 
inconsequence of the human heart no sooner he went than 
I began to regret bitterly his absence. I had for a moment 
the idea to rush out and call him back but before I could 
shake off the languor of my sorrow he was gone beyond 

There's nothing more to tell you except that the detailed 
relation of the heartrending occurrences of the last two days 
will be deposited tomorrow in Paternoster Bdgs for your 

I can write no more! Assured of your precious sympathy 
I shake tearfully your trusty hand. 

Yours ever 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[September 24, 1895.] 

I got your letter and the MS about an hour ago and I 
write at once under the impression of your criticism of 
your kind and truly friendly remarks. I want to tell you 
how much I appreciate your care, the sacrifice of your time, 
your evident desire to help me. I want to tell you all that, 
but do not know how to express myself so as to convey to 
you clearly the sense of the great obligation, of my indebted- 
ness towards you. You gild the pill richly but the fact re- 
mains that the last chapter is simply abominable. Never 
did I see anything so clearly as the naked hideousness of 
that thing. I can also see that you do faithfully try to make 
the best of it with a delicacy of feeling which does honour 
to your heart however much it may be wrong from an ethical 

I am glad you like the XXIII chapter. To tell you the 
honest truth I like it myself. As to the XXIV I feel con- 
vinced that the right course would be to destroy it, to scatter 
its ashes to the four winds of heaven. The only question is: 
can I? 

I am afraid I can't! I lack the courage to set before my- 
self the task of rewriting the thing. It is not as you say 
a matter of correction here and there a matter of changed 
words or lines or pages. The whole conception seems to 
me wrong. I seem to have seen the wrong side of the situa- 
tion. I was always afraid of it. For months I have been 
afraid of that chapter and now it is written and the fore- 
boding is realized in a dismal failure 

Nothing now can unmake my mistake. I shall try but I 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

shall try without faith, because all my work is produced un- 
consciously (so to speak) and I cannot meddle to any pur- 
pose with what is within myself. I am sure you understand 
what I mean It isn't in me to improve what has got itself 

Still with your help I may try. All the paragraphs marked 
by you to that effect shall be cut out. For Willerns to want 
to escape from both women is the very idea. Only don't 
you see I did not feel it so. Shame! The filiation 1 - of feel- 
ings in Willems on the evening when Aissa speaks to him 
arises from my view of that man of the effect produced 
upon him by the loss of things precious to him coming (the 
loss) after his passion is appeased. Consequently his delib- 
erate effort to recall the passion as a last resort, as the last 
refuge from his regrets, from the obsession of his longing to 
return whence he came. It's an impulse of thought not of the 
senses. The senses are done with. Nothing lasts! So with 
Aissa. Her passion is burnt out too. There is in her that 
desire to be something for him to be in his mind, in his 
heart to shelter him in her affection her woman's affec- 
tion which is simply the ambition to be an important factor 
in another's life. They both long to have a significance in 
the order of nature or of society. To me they are typical 
of mankind where every individual wishes to assert his 
power, woman by sentiment, man by achievement of some 
sort mostly base. I myself as you see from this have 
been ambitious to make it clear and have failed in that as 
Willems fails in his effort to throw off the trammels of earth 
and of heaven. 

1 A rare example of Conrad's using a French word for lack of an English 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

So much in defence of my view of the case. For the exe- 
cution I have no word to say. It is very feeble and all the 
strokes fall beside the mark. Why? If I knew that if I 
knew the causes of my weakness I would destroy them and 
then produce nothing but colossal masterpieces which 'no 
fellow could understand.' As it is I am too lazy to change my 
thoughts, my words, my images, and my dreams. Laziness is 
a sacred thing. It's the sign of our limitations beyond which 
there is nothing worth having. Nobody is lazy to accomplish 
things without any effort and things that can only be at- 
tained by effort are not worth having 

In the treatment of the last scenes I wanted to convey the 
kind of placidity that is caused by extreme surprise. You 
must not forget that they are all immensely amazed. That's 
why they are so quiet. (At least I wanted them to be quiet 
and only managed to make them colourless.) That's why I 
put in the quiet morning the immobility of surrounding 
matter emphasized only by the flutter of small birds Then 
the sense of their position penetrated the hearts stirs them. 
They wake up to the reality. Then comes violence: Joanna's 
slap in Aissa's face, Aissa's shot and the end just as he sees 
the joy of sunshine and of life. 

Forgive me this long rigmarole. I wanted you to see what 
I meant and this letter itself is a confession of complete 
failure on my part. I simply could not express myself artis- 
tically. It is a small loss to me and I notice that the world 
rolls on this morning without a hitch. 

Once more, thanks. I shall set to at once and grub 
amongst all these bones. Perhaps! Perhaps! 

Yours ever 

P. S. On Friday at 7. with joy. 




[February 22, 1896] 

Thanks for your letter. It gave me great pleasure in the 
expression of your belief; the greater because I went away 
from our last interview with, somehow, an impression within 
me that you thought me hopelessly wrong headed. That 
feeling, taken together with my horrible inability (for the 
last fortnight) to write a line imbued me with a sense of 
insecurity. Yet such is the cast iron impudence of my soul, 
that I was less depressed than you may think by the ominous 
sounds from without and from within. I can be deaf and 
blind and an idiot if that is the road to my happiness but 
I'm hanged if I can be mute. I will not hold my tongue! 
What is life worth if one cannot jabber to one heart's con- 
tent? If one cannot expose one's maimed thoughts at the 
gate of some cemetery or some palace; and from the dis- 
gusted compassion of the virtuous extract the precious pen- 
ny? for all my talk of anxiety, of care for the future and 
such like twaddle I care very little for the course of 
events. The unexpected always happens. And if there is no 
room for one in this world, there is I suspect a place for 
everyone in the shadowy spaces of the next. 1 

Nevertheless I am very grateful to you for your efforts on 
my behalf. They will not bein any case wasted: for 
they have awakened feelings, stirred up sentiments, caused 

1 An effort to obtain Conrad a "command" of a ship. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

emotions. Caused pleasure, called out hope, gratitude 
doubt; shaped uncertainty into amusing outlines and 
touched the heart. So, I apprehend, as work of art they are 
complete and successful and no mere failure in securing 
their ends can destroy the fact of a higher success. 

I shall turn up on Tuesday at the concert. There's nothing 
i desire more than to be made known to Mrs Garnett oi 
whom I am unable as yet to think otherwise than as the 
incomparable translator of an incomparable novelist. 1 An 
image, that, gracious, inexpressibly interesting and charming 
but not quite satisfying to the base human nature, the ves- 
tiges of which (I am sorry to say) I have not yet been able 
to cast off utterly! Alas! 

I am, dear encourager, 

Yours ever 


17 Gillingham St 

[March 11, 1896.] 

Please let me know where to find you. I do not know youi 
Rwy station. Also let me know about what time we ma? 
put in an appearance on Monday. 

Yours ever 


[March 23, 1896.] 


I am very glad you wrote to me the few lines I have jus 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

received. If you spoke as a friend I listened in the same 
manner listened and was only a little, a very little dis- 
mayed. If one looks at life in its true aspect then everything 
loses much of its unpleasant importance and the atmosphere 
becomes cleared of what are only unimportant mists that 
drift past in imposing shapes. When once the truth is grasped 
that one's own personality is only a ridiculous and aimless 
masquerade of something hopelessly unknown the attain- 
ment of serenity is not very far off. Then there remains 
nothing but the surrender to one's impulses, the fidelity to 
passing emotions which is perhaps a nearer approach to truth 
than any other philosophy of life. And why not? If we are 
"ever becoming never being" then I would be a fool if I 
tried to become this thing rather than that; for I know well 
that I never will be anything. I would rather grasp the solid 
satisfaction of my wrong-headedness and shake my fist at 
the idiotic mystery of Heaven. 

So much for trifles. As to that other kind of foolishness : 
my work, 1 there you have driven home the conviction and I 
shall write the sea-story at once (12 months). It will be 
on the lines indicated to you. I surrender to the infamous 
spirit which you have awakened within me and as I want 
my abasement to be very complete I am looking for a sen- 
sational title. You had better help O Gentle and Murderous 
Spirit! You have killed my cherished aspiration and now 
must come along and help to bury the corpse decently. I 

A Tale of Narrow Waters. 

1 The Sisters. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Meditate for a fortnight and by that time you will get my 
address and will be able to let me know what your natural 
aptitude for faithlessness and crime has suggested to you. 

My dear Garnett you are a perfect nuisance ! Here I sit 
(with ever so many things to do) and chatter to you (in- 
stead of being up and doing) and what's worse I have no 
inclination to leave off. (Surrender to impulses you see). 
If I was not afraid of your enigmatical (but slightly venom- 
ous) smile I would be tempted to say with Lingard: "I am 
an old fooll" But I don't want to give you an opportunity 
for one of your beastly hearty approvals. So I won't say 
that, I will say: "I am a wise old man of the sea" to you. 

Tell Mrs. Garnett with my most respectful and friendly 
regards how grateful I am to her for the kind reception of 
myself and Jessie. I commend myself to her kind remem- 
brance and look forward to my next visit to your hermitage, 
with pleasure unalloyed by the fear of boring her to death. 
I have the utmost confidence in her indulgence and the 
goodness of her heart will come to the rescue in the distress 
of her mind. As to you I of course do not care what happens 
to you. If you expire on your own hearthstone out of sheer 
"ennui" and weariness of spirit it will only serve you right. 
Goodbye my dear friend. 
I am 

Yours ever 


24th March, 1896. 
[Photographs enclosed wath card 

Mr and Mrs Joseph Conrad 

with sincere expressions of deep esteem and great regard.] 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

9th April. 96 
Monsieur J. Conrad 
chez Mme Coadon. March de des Granits 


par Lannion (C6tes-du-Nord). 

The above rigmarole is my address for the next six 

I am thirsty and hungry for news from you. Not for any- 
thing long you know but just for a few lines. Just be 
for once immorally charitable and drop me a line quick. 

Have you got our portraits? Jess has been somewhat un- 
well for three days but is now all right. She is a very good 
comrade and no bother at all. As a matter of fact I like to 
have her with me. 

We have got a small house all kitchen downstairs and all 
bedroom upstairs on as rocky and barren island as the heart 
of (right thinking) man would wish to have. And the peo- 
ple' They are dirty and delightful and very Catholic. And 
most of them are women. The men fish in Iceland, on the 
Great banks of Newfoundland and devil knows where else. 
Only a few old old fellows forgotten by the capricious death 
that dwells upon the sea shuffle about amongst the stones of 
this sterile land and seem to wonder peevishly at having 
been left so long alive. More inland the country is charming 
and picturesque and unexpected I like it much I 

Tell me what do you think of the title and matter of the 
story. 1 The Sisters' 2 are laid aside. Have you seen any no- 

1 The Rescuer 

signed as a novel 


2 Originally designed as a novel, which I criticized adversely, and Conrad 
laid aside 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ices of the "Outcast" How do they strike you? I had some. 
They struck me all of a heap so to speak. Ought I to wish 
nyself dead? Or only insane? Or what? Do tell me. 

By same mail I write to the Patron? Is he very sick at 
he very thought of me? Or cocky? Or rampagious? Or 
ishyti icyty, dummyli indifferent? Does he exist at all? 
Do you all fellows really exist? have ever existed? Is Lon- 
lon a myth? 

We both send our love to you both and to the hope of 
,he House of Garnett. 

Yours ever and everywhere 


P. S. I have written 15 pages of the dullest trash 1 . . . 
mmense success ! 1 

[April 13, 1896.] 

I am sending you MS. already if it's only twenty-four 
pages. But I must let you see it. I am so afraid of myself, of 
my likes and dislikes, of my thought and of my expression 
that I must fly to you for relief or condemnation for any- 
thing to kill doubt with. For with doubt I cannot live at 
least not for long. 

Is the thing tolerable? Is the thing readable? Is the 
damned thing altogether insupportable? Am I mindful 
enough of your teaching of your expoundings of the ways 
of the readers? Am I blessed? Or am I condemned? Or am 
I totally and utterly a hopeless driveller unworthy even of 
a curse? 

Do tell the truth. I do not mind telling you that I have 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

become such a scoundrel that all your remarks shall be ac- 
cepted by me without a kick, without a moan, without the 
most abject of timid whispers! I am ready to cut, slash, 
erase, destroy; spit, trample, jump, wipe my feet on that 
MS. at a word from you. Only say where, how, when. I 
have become one of the damned and the lost I want to 
get on! 

If you can't make out have the thing typed to see how it 
looks and tell me the cost or tell Mrs. Gill in Ludgate Hill, 
No. 35, to send J. C's account to Barr, Moering, 72 and 73 
Fore Street, E.G. who will pay. Then keep this, I have a 
copy. May I go on in this style? Tell me soon. I trust this 
will reach you on Thursday. Remember us to Mrs. Garnett. 



April 17th 1896 
lie - Grande 

Par Lannion 
(Cotes du Nord) 

We are both much grieved to hear of Edward's illness. 1 
These bad tidings, the first bad tidings of any sort which we 
received since we commenced our lonely life here, touched 
me very profoundly. I can measure the depth of my friend- 
ship and affection for your husband by the painful disturb- 
ance of my thought since I have read your letter. 

It is very good of you to have written! And I trust you 
will soon write again. Let me beg you to discard formulas 
in your intercourse with me. You cannot have much heart 

i Typhoid with relapses. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

or time for long messages. Just only a word or two liter- 
ally and may it be "much better"! 

I must demand of you if not in the name of friendship, 
then in the name of the interest dear Edward always showed 
me thereby conquering my gratitude and affection. 

We shall both wait with the greatest impatience for news 
from the Cearne. I assure you that my wife's concern is 
very genuine and very great. She sends her best love and 
best wishes for a rapid recovery. 

You are to a certain extent reassuring but the news was 
so unexpected and so painful that I shall wait here, looking 
at the sea, with a heavy heart, till I hear again from you. 

Believe me dear Mrs Garnett 

Your most faithful and most obedient servant 


25th April 96 

He Grande 

Your welcome letter brought immense relief how great 
you can hardly realize 1 I am truly grateful to you for send- 
ing me the good news. 

You have some sore trials to pass through with both the 
men of your house ill at the same time, I trust the dear 
little fellow does not suffer much and will soon get over 
the tonsilitis. I thought it was a disease of grown people 
and I am very sorry to hear he is precocious in such an in- 
fortunate manner. 

Dear Edward will have no doubt to leave London for a 
time to finish off his convalescence. I wish we had been 
nearer an d i n a less uncivilized place to beg all three of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

you to come to us. This sea air here is quite tonic a rare 
thing. I am afraid it would be too far to travel for an in- 
valid? But if you ever thought of it! I would come to St 
Malo to lead you in triumph to the Island. The only island! 
And after all we manage to live not only decently but pretty 
comfortably. And I would promise never to speak to Edward 
of books but entertain him only with light anecdotes and di- 
gestible short riddles or even keep silent mute as a fish. 
No sacrifice would be too great. 

My wife rejoices at the news and sends her best love. 

I am dear Mrs Garnett 

Your most faithful and obedient servant 


May 24 1896 
He Grande 

MY DEAR GARNETT. I swear by all the gods that I haven't 
had such a sunshiny day since I came here as today. I 
could not believe my eyes! If you knew how many bitter 
speculations, hesitating hopes, frightened longings I have 
known since your wife's last letter! On Friday I could not 
stand it any more and wrote F.U. asking for news about you. 
We Jessie and I used to spend our evenings in dismal 
suppositions as to what happened in the Cearne, and came 
to the ghastly conclusion that you no better, Mrs Garnett 
had broken down and the end of the world seemed to 
me somehow within sight. We are both rejoiced! We have 
danced with loud shouts round your letter. We are hoarse 
and very tired. I sit down to answer! I haven't anything 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

to say for the moment! There is nothing to say except that 
I am glad. Glad like a man relieved from rack or thumb- 
screw that kind of profound inexprimable satisfaction. 
Your letter is so cheerful that I feel you must be in the state 
of real convalescence. I tell you what. I simply did not dare 
to write again to your wife. I kept quiet like a man who 
afraid to start an avalanche keeps deadly still on a narrow 
ledge and waits. 

It is good of you to think of me to write to me and 
such a long letter too! Don't you read the Resc: read no- 
thing but Rabelais if you must read. But I imagine you so 
weakened by disease that the bare effort of looking at the 
page must make you pant. However I trust that Mrs Gar- 
nett has some control over your actions and will withhold 
this letter if she thinks it necessary. 

Any amount of reviews! 1 Heaps! It's distracting if one 
could take it all in. But one does not fortunately. You are 
the best of invalids to send me the commented Sat. Rev. 
I had seen it! I was puzzled by it but I felt confusedly what 
you say in your letter. Something brings the impression off 
makes its effect. What? It can be nothing but the ex- 
pression the arrangement of words, the style Ergo: the 
style is not dishonourable. I wrote to the reviewer. I did! 
And he wrote to me. He did! ! And who do you think it is? 
He lives in Woking. Guess. Can't tell? I will tell you. 
It is H. G. Wells. May I be cremated alive like a miserable 
moth if I suspected it! Anyway he descended from his 
"Time-Machine" to be kind as he knew how. It explains the 
review. He dedicates his books to W. Henley you know. 

I have been rather ill. Lots of pain, fever, etc. etc. The 

1 An Outcast of the Islands. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

left hand is useless still. This month I have done nothing to 
the Rescuer. but I have about 70 pages of the most rotten 
twaddle. In the intervals of squirming I wrote also a short 
story of Brittany. 1 Peasant life. I do not know whether it's 
worth anything. My wife typed it and it is in London now 
with a friend. I shall direct him to send it to you soon. The 
worst of it is that the Patron knows of it. I don't know why 
I told him about it. I never know what to write to that 
man. He numbs me like an electric eel. I want to know 
(when you are quite well) what you think of it. The title is: 
The Idiots, (10,000 words.) This is all the news. I've 
been living in a kind of trance from which I am only waking 
up now to a sober existence. And it appears to me that I 
will never write anything worth reading. But you have heard 
all this before. Tonight I shall go to bed with a light heart 
at last. Do not tire yourself writing. It's enough for me at 
present to know you are getting on. I shall write tho' when- 
ever the spirit moves me or loneliness becomes insupport- 

Jess sends her love. My affcte regards to Mrs Garnett 

Always yours 


2nd June 1896 

lie - Grande 

Don't think me an ungrateful beast. I have read your 
criticism of the first chapter 2 with profound thankfulness 
and I surrender without the slightest demur to all your re- 

1 The Idiots 

2 The Rescuer, 


letters from Joseph Conrad 

marks. It is easy to do so because they express my own 
thoughts. Yes! The first page is bad. You see, what I 
wanted to say, is by no means easy and I wrote it out in a 
perverse mood. But still I think something of the kind ought 
to be said more concisely in other words. As to its not 
being in tone with the rest it only shows what a many-toned 
fellow I am. But oh 1 can't I be bad! Can't I! 

It's perfectly rotten, that paragraph, and when one 
touches it the putrid particles stick to the fingers. I shan't 
touch it for a while for my gorge rises when I look at it. 

As to the "lyrism" in connection with Lingard's heart. 
That's necessary! The man must be episodically foolish to 
explain his action. But I don't want the word. I want the 
idea. Could you help me to shape it in an unobjectionable 
form. The passage or two marked as superfluous (the coco- 
nut etc) ought to be cut out. I know they are not necessary. 
I don't care for them. 

The Patron got hold of my short story. 1 It's a most dam- 
nable occurrence but you should not indulge in typhoid 
fevers discomposing recklessly your friends. I wrote to him 
instructions to forward it to you. I would not have it pub- 
lished unless you see and pass it as fit for the twilight of a 
popular magazine. 2 I want to know what you think of it 
with an absurd intensity of longing that is ridiculous and 
painful. Often I think of the thing with shame less often 
with pleasure but I think of it every day. And every day 

1 The Idiots. 

2 The original typescript of The Idiots from which the Savoy com- 
positors set up the copy as headed in Conrad's hand, "To be returned to 
Joseph Conrad, C/o A P Krieger, Esq're, 72/73 Fore Street, London, E C." 
The corrections in his hand are not many The last page (16) of the type- 
script has been torn away, the last line on page IS reading: "she had 
screamed 'Oh ' Alive !' and at once vanished before his eyes." E. G. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

the Rescuer crawls a page forward sometimes with cold 
despair at times with hot hope. I have long fits of depres- 
sion, that in a lunatic asylum would be called madness. I do 
not know what it is. It springs from nothing. It is ghastly. 
It lasts an hour or a day; and when it departs it leaves a 

Let me know how you get on. Jess is very proud of your 
reference to her and sends her love to both of you. 

I am with the greatest affection always yours 


[June 6, 1896.] 

Blessings on your head for the letter with the "Lucas" 
enclosure. 1 Today I heard from the Cornhill. A letter signed 
by Charles L. Graves writing by desire of the Editor. Asks 
for short stories. Serials full up to 1899 (I will be dead be- 
fore then). Short stones at 1.1 per 500 words (that is one 
page). Very nice letter. Says they are ready to give the 
most "sympathetic consideration" to anything I may send. 

I wrote to F. U. urging him to forward "Idiots" to you. 
Have you got them? What do you think? 0! My friend 
speak the truth if you do tear my entrails through my palpi- 
tating flank! from you even torture is sweet. It seems to me 
I am intruding too much into your life. In this matter too, 
friend, speak to me unveiled words. 

As soon as part I of the stupid Rescuer is finished I shall 
send it straight to you. I am gnawing my fingers over the 
end of it now. If you knew how idiotic the whole thing seems 

I 1 had introduced Conrad to E. V. Lucas, whose account of the first 
meeting appeared in English Life, September, 1924. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

to me you would pity me. You would weep over me Oh 
the unutterable, the inevitable Bosh! I feel as if could go 
and drown myself in a cesspool at that for twopence. 

I used to have swollen veins in both legs after my return 
from the Congo. If you hobble now then the initial pain is 
over. But do refrain from overdoing it in your gambols as 
I did then and had to go through the whole fiendish per- 
formance "da capo " 

Postman waits. We two send our love to you three. Think 
of me with indulgence. 

Yours ever 


10 June 1896 

He Grande. 

I send you today a registered envelope containing all that 
there is of the Rescuer. It is the whole of the first part. You 
will see that I have given up dividing it into chapters 
formally. I think I had better divide the thing into parts 
only. Say five. Then in places where necessary and proper 
a wider interval between the paragraphs will mark the 
subdivisions of the parts; this arrangement will give me 
more freedom I think. 

I do not know what to think of the pages I am sending 
you. Mostly they fill me with dismay. But I don't know 
why they should have this effect. I have been thinking, med- 
itating a great deal, and hoped to have much to say to you 
in justification of my work. And now I have nothing to say. 
Cannot find two consecutive sentences in my head. 

Will anybody in the world (besides you) have the pa- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

tience to read such twaddle I wonder ! Will you tell me the 
truth about it? Here I have used up 103 pages of manu- 
script to relate the events of 12 hours. I have done it in pur- 
suance of a plan. But is the plan utterly wrong? Is the 
writing utter bosh? I had some hazy idea that in the first 
part I would present to the reader the impression of the sea 
the ship the seamen. But I doubt having conveyed any- 
thing but the picture of my own folly. I doubt the sincerity 
of my own impressions. 

Probably no more will be written till I hear from you. If 
you think I am on a wrong track you shall say so and I may 
try some other way. Meantime I live with some passing no- 
tions of scenes of passion and battle and don't know how 
to get there. I dream for hours, hours! over a sentence and 
even then can't put it together so as to satisfy the cravings 
of my soul. I suspect that I am getting through a severe 
mental illness. Enough of this. 

I am ever yours 


Can the Idiots be printed without dishonour? 

19th June 1896 

He Grande 

I got your letter today. Need I tell you how delighted I 
am with your approval? The warm commendation is to me 
so unexpected that if I had not a perfect confidence in your 
sincerity I would suspect that the despondent tone of my 
accompanying letter induced you perhaps to force the note 
of satisfaction with my effort. However, if I don't believe 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

in the book 1 (and I don't somehow) I believe in you in 
you as a last refuge: somewhat as an unintelligent and hope- 
less sinner believes in the infinite mercy on high. 

Since I sent you that part 1st (on the eleventh of the 
month) I have written one page. Just one page. I went 
about thinking and forgetting sitting down before the 
blank page to find that I could not put one sentence to- 
gether. To be able to think and unable to express is a fine 
torture. I am undergoing it without patience. I don't see 
the end of it. It's very ridiculous and very awful. Now I've 
got all my people together I don't know what to do with 
them. The progressive episodes of the story will not emerge 
from the chaos of my sensations. I feel nothing clearly. And 
I am frightened when I remember that I have to drag it all 
out of myself. Other writers have some starting point. 
Something to catch hold of. They start from an anecdote 
from a newspaper paragraph (a book may be suggested by 
a casual sentence in an old almanack) They lean on dialect 
or on tradition or on history or on the prejudice or 
fad of the hour ; they trade upon some tie or some conviction 
of their time or upon the absence of these things which 
they can abuse or praise. But at any rate they know some- 
thing to begin with while I don't. I have had some impres- 
sions, some sensations in my time: impressions and sensa- 
tions of common things. And it's all faded my very being 
seems faded and thin like the ghost of a blonde and senti- 
mental woman, haunting romantic ruins pervaded by rats. 
I am exceedingly miserable. My task appears to me as sen- 
sible as lifting the world without that fulcrum which even 
that conceited ass, Archimedes, admitted to be necessary. 

i The Rescuer. See Conrad's letter of March 12, 1919. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I know the Patron has the Idiots. I trust he has sent 
them to you but I haven't heard from him at all. I did write 
to the Cornhill a suitable answer and informed the Patron 
of their offer. 

Thanks with all my heart for the time, the care, the 
thoughts you give to me so generously. I am getting so used 
to your interest in my work that it has become now like a 
necessity like a condition of existence. Why don't you tell 
me how you are? How are the veins for I trust that is now 
the only trouble and I long much to know that it is over. 

My affectionate regards to Mrs Garnett. I am ever yours 


I am nearly right. Had a 3 days' cruise along the coast. 

10th July 
He Grande 
par Lannion. 

I did not write sooner from (would you guess it?) from a 
sense of delicacy was afraid to take up too much of your 
time in factl But hang it all it's more than (my) human 
nature can stand. I must let out a howl upon things in 
general which are things that interest me in particular. 

I guess (from the aspect of heavenly bodies and from 
T. Fisher Unwin's letter) that you are tolerably well. Would 
like to be sure. Have no conscientious objection to post- 
cards. Am used to hardships and privations of all kinds. 
Think that 1>4 line from you would do me good! Leave 
you to draw inferences! 

Why am I fooling thusly while there is a pain in my back 
to which a jab with a carving-knife would be a soothing ap- 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

plication? I also have just learned that the Cosmopolis re- 
fuses my short story 1 (twice) (twice refuses). So say 
T. F. U. But he also says you are pleased with it. Is he 
only gilding the pill? Provisionally I am consoled but I 
would like to be sure. 

If you have no further use for it please send the 1st part 
Resc to G. F, W. Hope 18 Ironmonger Lane. E. C. I want 
him to look over the seamanship of my expressions. He is 
instructed to return it to you. I trust I will live long enough 
to finish that story but at the pace I am going now I am 
preparing for myself an interminable old age. I am now 
setting Beatrix, her husband and Linares (the Spanish gent) 
on their feet. It's a hell of a job as Carter would say. 
However I trust you will find that they stand firmly on their 
pins when I am done with them. I am trying to make all 
that short and forcible. I am in a hurry to start and raise 
the devil generally upon the sea. Jess is not very well but 
apart from that she is a very good girl. I mention this be- 
cause I think you might like to know. We send our very 
best love. 

Yours ever 


22 July 96. 

Your letter was like dew on parched grass. I look 'dif- 
ferent today. I feel different. I am glad you are taken 
care of in such an ideal way, but I don't enjoy the news of 
your stiff legs. And what is that ominous and startling 

i The Idiots. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

little sentence "Bills rolling in?" Ah! my dear Garnett 
God keep us all! 

What are you going to write? What? Why hint, and 
not explain? If you send me a book let it be your book 
one of your books for I know now the Imaged World 
pretty nearly by heart. 

Don't you spoil me! Don't you? After reading your 
letter I don't touch the ground for three days. Then I get 
a fall when I begin to hear myself. 

Cosmo asked for a story. I was then writing a story es- 
pecially for you. 1 I was polishing, perfecting, simplifying. 
It's finished. I send it to you first of all. It's yours. It 
shall be the first of a vol ded to you but this story is 
meant /or you. I am pleased with it. That's why you shall 
get it. I am sure you will understand the reason and mean- 
ing of every detail, the meaning of them reading novels and 
the meaning of Curlier not having been armed. The story is 
going by this post. After reading send please to F. V. If 
any passages are de trap then strike out. I mean it. I 
don't want anything incompatible with the general method 
of the thing but am befogged myself now. Thanks for 
your hint about the "Savoy" 2 I shall wait yet. Don't like 
to snatch the thing from the Patron who seems to be trying 
his best. How is your wife and boy? You don't say. We 

Outpost oj Progress. The original manuscript in Conrad's hand lies 
before me as I write this Note, The inscription on the title page runs: "An 
Outpost of Progress. To Edward Garnett. 36 pp, 0,500 words, 17th-21st 
July 1896, He Grande." But the first page of the story is headed "A Victim 
of Progress," showing that the final title was only hit upon after the finish. 
The caligraphy is, even for Conrad, of remarkable beauty, and there are a 
number of pages almost free from interlineations and cancelinp of phrases 
and lines, 

2 Arthur Symons had written me inviting a contribution to The, Savoy 
from the author of An Outcast oj the Islands; and The Idiots appeared there 
in November, 1896. 



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Fiisi page of the manuscript, An Outpost of Progress 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

are so so There is very little more of Rescuer written. I 
could not. Misery 1 Write to us. 

Yours ever 


I have had a lot of worries. A man I love much had been 
very unfortunate in affairs and I also lose pretty well all 
that remained. 
Jess sends love to you all. 

5th Aug. 96. 
lie Grande. 


I've sent you 10 days ago a short story 1 which I trust you 
received all right. It was registered. Since then that is 
since I had your last letter I have been living in a little 
hell of my own; in a place of torment so subtle and so cruel 
and so unavoidable that the prospect of theological damna- 
tion in the hereafter has no more terrors for me. 

It is all about the ghastly "Rescuer" Your commenda- 
tion of part I plunges me simply into despair because part 
II must be very different in theme if not in treatment and I 
am afraid this will make the book a strange and repulsive 
hybrid, fit only to be stoned, jumped upon, defiled and then 
held up to ridicule as a proof of my ineptitude. You see I 
must justify give a motive to my yacht people the arti- 
ficial, civilized creatures that are to be brought in contact 
with the primitive Lingard. I must do that or have a 
Clark Russell puppet show which would be worse than star- 
vation. Now the justification that had occurred to me is 

1 An Outpost of Progress. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

unfortunately of so subtle a nature that I despair of con- 
veying it in say 20 pages well enough to make it comprehen- 
sible. And I also doubt whether it would be acceptable (if 
conveyed) to a single creature under heaven not excepting 
even especially! you. Besides I begin to fear that sup- 
posing everything conveyed and made acceptable (which 
seems impossible) supposing that I begin to fear that I 
have not enough imagination not enough power to make 
anything out of the situation; that I cannot invent an illu- 
minating episode that would set in a clear light the persons 
and feelings. I am in desperation and I have practically 
given up the book. Beyond what you have seen I cannot 
make a step. There is 12 pages written and I sit before 
them every morning, day after day, for the last 2 months 
and cannot add a sentence, add a word! I am paralyzed by 
doubt and have just sense enough to feel the agony but am 
powerless to invent a way out of it. This is sober truth. I 
had bad moments with the Outcast but never anything so 
so ghastly nothing half so hopeless. When I face that fatal 
manuscript it seems to me that I have forgotten how to 
think worse! how to write. It is as if something in my 
head had given way to let in a cold grey mist. I knock 
about blindly in it till I am positively, physically sick and 
then I give up saying tomorrow! And tomorrow comes 
and brings only the renewed and futile agony. I ask myself 
whether I am breaking up mentally. I am afraid of it. 

In desperation I took up another short story. I must do 
something to live and meantime perhaps a ray of inspiration 
may come and light me along the labyrinth of incertitude 
where I am now lost. I wrote the Outpost oj Progress with 
pleasure if with difficulty. The one I am writing now I 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

hammer out of myself with difficulty but without pleasure. 
It is called the Lagoon? and is very much Malay indeed. I 
shall send it to the Cornhill straight or else through F. U. 
You must be sick of my short stories. And yet they cost 
me in a sense more than Outcast did. I wrote the Outpost 
of Prog, thinking of you. It was during the time when I 
had not heard for nearly six weeks and you were very 
much in my thoughts. I made there an effort at conciseness 
as far as in me lies and just managed it short of 10,000 
words. Do you find it very bad? I can't bear to look at 
my MS of it. Everything seems so abominable stupid. You 
see the belief is not in me and without the belief the 
brazen thick headed, thick skinned immovable belief nothing 
good can be done. I am worrying you with my jeremiads. 
Perhaps you are at work! What are you going to write? 
You stirred my curiosity by the hint that you are going to 
begin but what? I dare not ask you to write to me but if 
you knew how intensely miserable I am you would forgive 
my intrusions. 

We return in October. We must take a labouring cottage 
somewhere not too far from town. Perhaps I will be able to 
do something then. But I doubt it. I doubt everything. 
The only certitude left to me is that I cannot work for the 

I hope you never felt as I feel now and I trust that you 
will never know what I experience at this very moment. The 
darkness and the bitterness of it is beyond expression. Poor 
Jess feels it all. I must be a perfect fiend to live with but 

1 The original typescript of The Lagoon from which the Cornhill com- 
positors set up the copy is headed, in Conrad's hand, "The Lagoon Joseph 
Conrad pp 18 Words 5700. C/o Mr Fisher Unwm, 11, Paternoster Bdgs, 
E. C." The author's corrections are relatively few. E G. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

unfortunately of so subtle a nature that I despair of con- 
veying it in say 20 pages well enough to make it comprehen- 
sible. And I also doubt whether it would be acceptable (if 
conveyed) to a single creature under heaven not excepting 
even especially' you. Besides I begin to fear that sup- 
posing everything conveyed and made acceptable (which 
seems impossible) supposing that I begin to fear that I 
have not enough imagination not enough power to make 
anything out of the situation; that I cannot invent an illu- 
minating episode that would set in a clear light the persons 
and feelings. I am in desperation and I have practically 
given up the book. Beyond what you have seen I cannot 
make a step. There is 12 pages written and I sit before 
them every morning, day after day, for the last 2 months 
and cannot add a sentence, add a word' I am paralyzed by 
doubt and have just sense enough to feel the agony but am 
powerless to invent a way out of it. This is sober truth. I 
had bad moments with the Outcast but never anything so 
so ghastly nothing half so hopeless. When I face that fatal 
manuscript it seems to me that I have forgotten how to 
think worse! how to wiite. It is as if something in my 
head had given way to let in a cold grey mist. I knock 
about blindly in it till I am positively, physically sick and 
then I give up saying tomorrow! And tomorrow conies 
and brings only the renewed and futile agony. I ask myself 
whether I am breaking up mentally. I am afraid of it. 

In desperation I took up another short story. I must do 
something to live and meantime perhaps a ray of inspiration 
may come and light me along the labyrinth of incertitude 
where I am now lost. I wrote the Outpost of Progress with 
pleasure if with difficulty. The one I am writing now I 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

hammer out of myself with difficulty but without pleasure. 
It is called the Lagoon, 1 and is very much Malay indeed. I 
shall send it to the Cornhill straight or else through F. U. 
You must be sick of my short stories. And yet they cost 
me in a sense more than Outcast did. I wrote the Outpost 
of Prog, thinking of you. It was during the time when I 
had not heard for nearly six weeks and you were very 
much in my thoughts. I made there an effort at conciseness 
as far as in me lies and just managed it short of 10,000 
words. Do you find it very bad? I can't bear to look at 
my MS of it. Everything seems so abominable stupid. You 
see the belief is not in me and without the belief the 
brazen thick headed, thick skinned immovable belief nothing 
good can be done. I am worrying you with my jeremiads. 
Perhaps you are at work! What are you going to write? 
You stirred my curiosity by the hint that you are going to 
begin but what? I dare not ask you to write to me but if 
you knew how intensely miserable I am you would forgive 
my intrusions. 

We return in October. We must take a labouring cottage 
somewhere not too far from town. Perhaps I will be able to 
do something then. But I doubt it. I doubt everything. 
The only certitude left to me is that I cannot work for the 

I hope you never felt as I feel now and I trust that you 
will never know what I experience at this very moment. The 
darkness and the bitterness of it is beyond expression. Poor 
Jess feels it all. I must be a perfect fiend to live with but 

original typescript of The Lagoon from which the CornhM com- 
positors set up the copy is headed, in Conrad's hand, "The Lagoon Joseph 
Conrad pp 18 Words 5700 C/o Mr Fisher Unwm, 11, Paternoster Bdgs, 
E C." The author's corrections are relatively few. E G 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I really don't care who suffers. I have enough of my own 

Yours ever 

My wife sends her love. 

14th August 1896 

He Grande 

Thanks ever so much for your letter or rather for your 
two letters. I suppose you are now in possession of my 
howl of distress. Perhaps the not unnatural exasperation of 
a man condemned to read such lamentations has subsided 
somewhat and you will be able to look at this missive with 
a comparatively kind eye. 

You are right in your criticism of Outpost. The construc- 
tion is bad. It is bad because it was a matter of conscious 
decision, and I have no discrimination in artistic sense. 
Things get themselves written and you like them. Things 
get themselves into shape and they are tolerable. But 
when I want to write when ,/ do consciously try to write 
or try to construct then my ignorance has full play and the 
quality of my miserable and benighted intelligence is dis- 
closed to the scandalized gaze of my literary father. This 
is as it should be. I always told you I was a kind of in- 
spired humbug. Now you know it. Let me assure you that 
your remarks were a complete disclosure to me. I had not 
the slightest glimmer of my stupidity. I am now profoundly 
thankful to find I have enough sense to see the truth of 
what you say. It's very evident that the first 3 pages kill 
all the interest. And I wrote them of set purpose 1 1 I 
thought I was achieving artistic simplicity! Mil! Now, of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

course, the thing the res infecta is as plain as a pikestaff. 
It does not improve my opinion of myself and of my pros- 
pects. Am I totally lost? Or do the last few pages save the 
thing from being utterly contemptible? You seem to think 
so if I read your most kind and friendly letter aright. 

I must explain that that particular story was no more 
meant for you than the Idiots that is all the short stories 
(ab initio) were meant alike for a vol to be inscribed to you. 
Only then I had not heard from you so long that you were 
naturally constantly in my thoughts. In fact I worried 
about it thinking of the treachery of disease and so on. 
And then I thought that the story would be a good title- 
story better than the Idiots. It would sound funny a title 
like this: Idiots and other Stones. While Outpost of Prog- 
ress and Other Stories sounds nice and proper. That's why 
your name has been typed by my devoted wife on the title 
page of the infamous thing. The question is is the inf: 
thing too infamous to go into the vol. I leave it to you. 

Meantime the E. P. of L has bombarded the Cosmo with 
it. It appears it will do. At any rate the secretary of the 
Cosmo accepts and refers to his editor who is away. The 
price put upon that ghastly masterfolly by the E. P of L is 
50 which seems to be also agreed to provisionally. I must 
say that the Patron has behaved generally in a friendly man- 
ner which is touching. He writes often and seems to want 
really to push me along. I will want a lot of pushing I fear. 

I've sent a short thing 1 to the Cornhill. A malay tells a 
story to a white man who is spending the night at his hut. 
It's a tricky thing with the usual forests river stars wind 
sunrise, and so on and lots of second hand Conradese in it, 

1 The Lagoon, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I would bet a penny they will take it. There is only 6000 
words in it so it can't bring in many shekels. . . . Don't 
you think I am a lost soul? Upon my word I hate every 
line I write. I wish I could tackle the Rescuer again. I 
simply can't t And I live in fear that is worse than mortal. 
But I have told you all that. 

Yours ever 


17 Gillingham St. 

London SW 
[September, 1896] 

We are here! I feel better since I know myself near you. 
I have a great tongue-itch. When are you coming up to 

My wife wishes to get things straight for our cottage. I 
have ordered her to get everything ready for work there in 
a week's time. Her efforts are superhuman. I sit still and 
grumble. Today we go to Stanford to measure room for 
carpets. Tomorrow I'll be in London and probably budge 
not till I go and take possession. 

When? How? Will you see me? Are you well? Have 
you time? Have you the wish? 

Our best love to all of you. 

Yours ever 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


16th Oct. 96 

Thanks for the book and your letter. It cheers me. By 
the same post I have received documents from the Patron 
to sign. I must tell you about them. 

In a letter he points out to me that he has incurred ex- 
pense on account of securing American copyright of my 3 
stories. He strongly insists upon that point. Further on 
he bespeaks more matter; to complete 60,000 words for a 
6/-volume. On serial rights he agrees to pay me 90 per cent 
of them as arranged before. So far good. 

As to the volume: There are the usual clauses for royal- 
ties. The first 2,000 copies bring me in 10% on published 
price. After 2,000 copies the royalty is to be 12% on pub. 
price, and after 4,000 copies the royalty is to be 15% on net 
proceeds of sales. There is the usual clause about thirteen 
copies going to the dozen. 

He wants the work 1 delivered on March 97 at the latest. 
He engages himself to publish within six months of delivery. 

That also is all right. But then he says : on account and 
in anticipation of such royalties the pub shall pay to the 
Auth 25 on 31st Dec 96 and 25 on 31 march. 97. 

Now I do not think that satisfactory. What do you 
think? It's exactly what he advanced on the Outcast. 
Ought I not to get more? I want ^00 (in two payments if 
he likes) . Can I honestly ask for it? Am I worth that ad- 
vance? I shall not write to him till I hear from you. 

1 Tales of Unrest. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I am glad Smith Elder think of me. 1 I do not see however 
how I can send my address to them and what would be the 
use if they think me entirely in the hands of T. F. U. I do 
not want to leave him if he gives me enough to live on. If 
cornered I would try to escape of course. It's simply a 
matter of "to be or not to be." 

I do hesitate about H. James. Still I think I will send the 
book. After all it would not be a crime or even an impu- 
dence. Excuse me dear Garnett for interminably worrying 
you with my affairs. You are my "father in letters" and 
must bear the brunt of that position. 

We send our love to you all 

Yours ever 




[October 25, 1896] 

Thanks for your note on Thursday. I think I will want 
your advice very much. I've written to F. U. exactly in 
the terms suggested by you that is. 100 in two payments. 
12y 2 % for the first 3000 copies. 
15% for everything over 3000 c. 
one half American rights. 
90% of serial rights. 

And I have had yesterday an answer which I literally 

1 Smith Elder and Co , the publishers of The Cornhill Magazine, had been 
putting out "feelers" about Conrad's prospective books 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

" I have read it very carefully and have studied the re- 
turned agreement. But I have had to put it away on file. 
I did not send this agreement without serious consideration 
and I must leave my proposal as originally drafted. I 
have no more to say, except that perhaps I made a blunder 
in copyrighting the stories. 1 If at any time you wish to see 
me, please let me know so that I may be in office and dis- 
"With kind regards sincerely yours. 

He is touched by my allusion to the American rights evi- 
dently. I had said that: "judging from the idiotic tone of 
press comments over there I would have thought the Am. 
rights hardly worth anything. I am glad that you with your 
great experience of such matters have thought it worth 
while! 1" 

To the letter of F. U. I replied in effect: That his <( non 
possumus" seems final to me; for the difference between us 
is more fundamental than a mere question of "more and 
less" That his passage about the blunder seems to imply 
that, with ingratitude, I did try to put a screw on him. "A 
suspicion" I said "unworthy of you and me." Then I 
said: Let me know the extent of my liability towards you 
so that I can discharge it if possible at once for till I have 
done so I do not feel a perfect liberty of action. A position 
I dislike. That as far as the Nigger is concerned I shall try 
to place it for serial publication with Henley or elsewhere 
but as to a book I know no one, have written to no one and 
shall not do so till the Nigger is finished. And I asked him 

1 In the volume Tales of Unrest, 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

to tell me how much he spent on Am. rights as quickly as 
possible. I ended by saying that I do not intend to come to 
town soon but the first time I did so I would call in a friendly 
manner etc. etc. 

This is a faithful account. I shall not recede from my po- 
sition an inch. I would rather begin with somebody else. 
Could you advise me what to do to get these infernal rights 
taken over by someone. And who? And how to get about 
it? Is it possible? feasible? And how soon? 

The Idiots earned some commendation. I begin the 
Magazine 1 and am very pleased with myself. But Smithers 
has not sent cheque. I do not appear in the Cornhill for 
Nov. It's a shame. Can Unwin knock the Cosmopolis ar- 
rangement on the head now if he likes? I've had the proof. 

Bash the whole business. I am (as the sailors say to ex- 
press a state of painful destitution) "I am sitting in the lee 
scuppers." . . . Only it interferes with my Nigger damna- 
bly. I crawl on with it. It will be about 30,000 words. I 
must enshrine my old chums in a decent edifice. Seriously, 
do you think it would be too long? There are so many 
touches necessary for such a picture! 

There! My dear Garnett. I have said all with trust and 
relief. To you thanks. 

Ever yours 


My kindest regards and my wife's love to Mrs Garnett 
and the boy. 

The Savoy 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 



I am very much touched by your promptitude in writing 
to cheer me up. You ease my mind greatly and in this 
juncture no man could do it but you. I have nothing to do 
but to follow your advice which is the more easy because it 
accords with my inclination. I am at your disposition on 
Friday or any other day only, my dearest fellow, invite those 
men in my name for I cannot let you stand my business din- 
ners. I can always break your bread (and argue with you 
impudently while I do so) in the commission of friendship 
but this is another matter. You will render me an immense 
service if you will undertake to arrange everything and let 
me know of the place of feeding. It seems almost an imper- 
tinence to ask you to do that but I know you want to help 
me. On second thoughts perhaps it is better that you should 
ask them (I only know Lucas) but I want you to under- 
stand that I won't let you pay for it. That's all. Blessings 
on your head! 

Your proposal to introduce me to Longman and also to 
Heineman smiles at me. Only I do not want you to give any 
cause for a grievance to the Patron. He may be of a venge- 
ful disposition. And I would never forgive myself if I was 
the cause of any inconvenience to you. Perhaps I am an 
old donkey to mention this but somehow the idea struck me. 
Don't be angry! As to Watt 1 1 think I ought to know him. 
It would be a great relief to have someone to do one's "dirty 
work" as the sailors say of any occupation they dislike. 

i A P. Watt, the literary agent 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I must tell you that you have sent me an incomplete letter. 
There are two full sheets (8 pages each) and a half sheet 
which is evidently a P. S. The last page of the full sheets 
ends "Don't however commit" and there is nothing more! 
Frightful! I have looked everywhere under tables and 
chairs and can't find the part which tells me what I mustn't 
commit. So, I am left in a state of trepidation. It is just 
possible there was something in the envelope which I have 
burnt. I did look in however before throwing it on the coals. 
I assure you I will commit nothing of any kind till I hear 
from you. The P. has not as yet replied to my farewell 
letter. I won't yield an inch, for my "dander is riz" (as 
Bret Harte's men say). Thanks a thousand times. I am 
dear Garnett ever yours 


(My wife sends love) 

I have sent Outcast to H. James with a pretty dedication; 
it fills the fly leaf. 


[November 1, 1896.] 

I agree with every word of your letter. Especially about 
Watt. I shall take care to bring all my MSS. to town. They 
(are) a beggarly lot anyhow. 

My wife is very unwell today so I can't write much be- 
cause when she is like that I forget half of what I wish to 
say. I am letting myself go with the Nigger. He grows and 
grows. I do not think it's wholly bad though. Moreover 
I must have about 55000 words (in all the 4 stories) to go 
to a Publisher with; Do you think it's enough, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I had a note from the P. sad and tender and with an auto- 
graph P. S. but saying nothing to the purpose. I haven't 
replied yet. 

I am worried and stupidly nervous about imaginary things. 
That's nothing new. 

Yours ever 



[November 6, 1896.] 

I have seen Mr. Reginald Smith who received me like a 
long expected friend. 1 Seriously, I am very pleased with 
what I saw of him and now the P. seems more impossible 
than ever. 

R. S. holds now all my material for consideration till 
Friday next at noon; when I shall come up to hear what 
he has to say. Mr. Graves I asked for him at first was 
not there. I left my card and thanks for criticism. I feel 
much easier in my mind though positively I know nothing 
of course but R. S. talked with enthusiasm 2 about my two 
books which, he affirms, having read. You are right my 
dear G. They do look upon me as a kind of "hintfant phe- 
nomenon." Something at any rate seems to stir their curi- 
osity. For all the good that may come from this I have 
you to thank. I kept your advice in mind during the inter- 
view. I was dignified and not abjectly modest. We shall 

Imagine! Two Cambridge dons Walter Headlam and 
Dr. Waldstein are so impressed by the Outcast (!!!!!!) 

1 Mr. Reginald Smith's habit with authors of promise 

2 It was Mr Roger Ingpen, the "reader," who was enthusiastic. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

that they wish to make my acquaintance. In fact Headlam 
through Mrs. Sanderson (my Elstree friend) invites me to 
Cambridge. I can't accept just now, but later on it may be 
a curious experience. I have not the slightest conception of 
what it may be like! What do such fellows think and talk 
about? I have seen some of Headlam's "po'try" in MS. 
He I fancy is not made in the image of God like other 
men but is fashioned after the pattern of Walter Pater 
which, you cannot but admit, is a much greater distinction. 

Yours ever 


Friday, 13th Nov. [1896] 


I have just returned from my interview with Mr. Reginald 
Smith and, having heard his proposals, seek your advice. 

He began the conversation by asking how long it would 
take me to finish the Rescuer. I replied six months or so. 
Then he said that they would make me an offer for it at 
once but they thought it better for them and for me that the 
offer should be made after the book was finished. He put 
a stress on that and I said I "thought so too." It cost me 
nothing to say that. 

Then as to stories. He said they liked them immensely 
and went on to advise me to put them by for a time. I said 
I wished to sell them. He replied that they wished to buy 
them and made the following proposition. He said: We 
are prepared to give you at once 50 for the right to put them 
away for a time. (He pointed to the safe.) We think 
it's the best way. When we publish we will give you 2Q% 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

and all the American rights whatever they would fetch. 
To my demand for a serial publication of the "Nigger" he 
said in effect that he thought the story too long for the 
"Cornhill" and generally did not seem to see his way. 

Then I spoke about the serial of Rescuer. There also he 
did not say anything definite. Said: We can promise to 
try but cannot promise success. If you finished the book in 
six months, we would publish you in September next year 
but a serial would delay the publication. I pointed out to 
him that I did not wish to disappear from the scene for such 
a long time. And I said I would take a week to consider. 
He agreed. Adjourned till Friday next. 

All this passed in the nicest way imaginable you must 
understand. I really believe the people mean well and would 
act generously. After all I can't expect more than the offer 
they made. Nothing would induce me to go back to F. U. 
Still it worries me to think that my "nigger" would be locked 
up for a year or two. More likely two. I feel horribly un- 
settled. It takes the savour out of the work. And the "N" 
is not yet quite finished. Then to go on toiling over the 
Rescuer without knowing anything about a reward is dis- 
tasteful. I am somewhat bothered. I dare say shall feel 
better tomorrow. Would you tell me what you think? 

Yours ever 


16th Nov. [1896]. 

10 pm. 

I am greatly refreshed by your letter; and, girding my 
loins, I have written to Smith exactly on the lines indicated 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

by you, a very nice firm letter. I also am sending the press 
cuttings. And I shall see him on Friday noon unless he 
cancels the engagement in consequence of my letter. 

To tell you the truth I do not think they will accept my 
terms. I do not think they care much for me really. I 
rather fancy they fancy themselves very generous as it is 
to the obscure scribbler. But I am of your opinion entirely. 
I had better make a stand now and taste the acrid savour 
of adventure. I do not know how to thank you enough for 
your encouragement advice and help. I shut up. 

I am going to interview the P. on Friday 11 a m Just a 
call and there is a shadow of an excuse for it too. They have 
heard of me in Poland, through Chicago (of all the God- 
forsaken places) and think of trying for translations of 
A F. and 0. So I am unofficially informed by a Warsaw 
friend. I can talk to the P. about that a little and size him 
up meanwhile. 

The Vienna at 1 .30 Friday, when I shall report. 
Yours ever 



[November 21, 1896.] 
You are worth ever so many bricks. 
It is a lovely arrangement. 1 Remains to be seen whether 
the story 2 is good enough or effective enough. 
That I doubt. I also remember days when I did not 

x Mr Reginald Smith's proposal appeared to be quite unsatisfactory I 
went to S S Pawling of "Hememann's" and interested him in Conrad's work. 
2 The Nigger of the Narcissus. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

doubt. So I sit tight now; like a man with a lottery ticket; 
and hope for unheard-of fortunes. 

The idea about the P. is very good like all your ideas. 
By and bye I shall placate him with a burnt offering of 
stories. The old Moloch! 

The best is that if all fails I can always go back to Smith 
Elder. I feel like putting my thumbs in the armholes of 
my waistcoat. 

I shall make sail with the "Narcissus" and expect to make 
a quick passage. Weather fine, and wind fair. 

Yours ever 


[November 25, 1896.] 

I am as you may imagine exceedingly pleased with what 
Pawling writes. My dear fellow you are the making of me! 
My only fear is that I will droop with the end of the "Nar- 
cissus." I am horribly dissatisfied with the ideas yet un- 
written. Nothing effective suggests itself. It's ghastly. I 
shall, end [off] by this week, send you on a good many 
pages but the end is not yet. I think I could almost pray 
for inspiration if I only knew where to turn my face. 

Yours ever 

J. C. 

[November 29, 1896] 


I send you seventeen pages more 65-82 of my Beloved 
Nigger. Send them on to Mr. Pawling, but first look at 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

them yourself. I am ashamed to think how much of my 
work you have not seen. It is as if I had broken with my 
conscience, quarreled with the inward voice. I do not feel 
very safe. 

Of course nothing can alter the course of the "Nigger." 
Let it be unpopularity it must be. But it seems to me that 
the thing precious as it is to me is trivial enough on the 
surface to have some charm for the man in the street. As 
to lack of incident well it's life. The incomplete joy, the 
incomplete sorrow, the incomplete rascality or heroism the 
incomplete suffering. Events crowd and push and nothing 
happens. You know what I mean. The opportunities do 
not last long enough. Unless in a boy's book of adventures. 
Mine were never finished. They fizzled out before I had a 
chance to do more than another man would. Tell me what 
you think of what you see. I am going on. Another 20 
pages of type or even less will see the end, such as it is. 
And won't I breathe 1 Till it's over there's no watch below 
for me. A sorry business this scribbling. Thanks. 

Yours ever 


My wife sends her love to all. 

[December 2, 1896.] 

I have turned to with a will. I do not think I can give the 
whole on Friday but a good piece off the end I can. 

Will you lunch with me on Friday, 1.30, Ang-Am? 1 I 
shall be there to time and with a handful of paper in my 
pocket. Some of that must be in MS. for I won't let my 

1 Anglo-American Caf6, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

wife sit up to type. There will be enough to see the last 
headland anyhow. So I suppose Henley likes it. 
Thanks my dear fellow. 

Yours ever 


Monday morning. 
[December 7, 1896.] 

Of course as old Pendennis used to say I am mon- 
strously pleased to see Pawling, monstrously pleased begad! 
You are raising for yourself a fine crop of ingratitude for 
I don't see any other course of action opened for me. 

Shall I meet you at Compton Street? I suppose it is the 
place where we had dinner together once or twice. At the 
back of Palace music-hall. If you don't write I shall take 
it as it being so. It seems an awful thing to sleep in a Mu- 
seum right alongside fellows who have slept for 2000 years 
or so, but I am brave. Now I have conquered Henley I ain't 
'fraid of the divvle himself. I will drink to the success of 
the Rescuer, I will even get drunk to make it all safe no 
morality! I feel like, in old days, when I got a ship and 
started off in a hurry to cram a lot of shore-going emotions 
into one short evening before going off into a year's slavery 
upon the sea. Ah! Tempi passati. There were then other 
prejudices to conquer. Same fate in another garb. 

Yours ever 


I shall look for you downstairs first. But I will be in 
Monico's entrance-hall at 5.30 for a vermouth. Won't you 
call in? 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

19 Xer [December] 96. 

Ever since I left you in the rain and mud of Oxford Street 
I have been at work. I had some real bad days but since 
last Monday I am going on all right. I think the pages just 
written won't dishonour the book. Your book which you 
try to coax into bloom with such devotion and care. And the 
thing is dramatic enough. It will be done by the 7th Jan. 
Not before! 

We are off to Cardiff on Monday. I take my MS with 
me. I shall not stop writing unless I am stumped by some- 
thing, when the only remedy is to wait. 

May this next year be a better one to you all than the 
last ! My best wishes go to Cearne if my poor sinful body 
must go to Wales that is if Cardiff is in Wales? 

I go on then with my work feeling very swimming some- 
how like a man before a fall. "AbsitOmen!" I shall buy 
chickens, make them sacred, watch the auspices of the sky, 
the flight of crows the agitations of planets. Never was 
ambitious scoundrel of republican Rome more anxious about 
the signs of the future. And if I knew of a temple any- 
where of an undesecrated temple within the land I would 
go scattering flowers, offering sacrifices, and prostrate on 
marble floors at the foot of lofty columns, beseech the gods. 

Yours ever 





January 10, 1897. 

Nigger died on the 7th at 6 p. m.; but the ship is not 
home yet. Expected to arrive tonight and be paid off to- 
morrow. And the endl I can't eat I dream nightmares 
and scare my wife. I wish it was over! But I think it 
will do! It will do! Mind I only think not sure. But if 
I didn't think so I would jump overboard. 

Thank you both for your kind letter. I am not so ab- 
sorbed as not to think of you every day. I think of you 
captive and desolate within the magic circle of dates. 

May the Gods help you. I am all right have sold my- 
self to the devil. Am proud of it. My wife sends love to all. 

Ever yours 


Tuesday. 19 Jan. 1897. 


Thanks for the book, and, before all, thanks for the MS. 
of London^ I did not dare to ask. I didn't know whether 
you cared to let anybody read your work in fragments, and, 
besides, it is a monstrous thing for the children to call their 

1 A contemplated book on London of a realistic-poetic nature, which the 
publishers commissioned, and then took fright at It remains unfinished. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

fathers to account to literary account which is more ter- 
rible than a trial for a crime. 

I have soaked in the three fragments. I began with Lon- 
don Bridge then the Lark's song and, last, I have read 
the Thames' mouth. And I am proud to see that it is just 
what I expected in kind and most delicious in quality. The 
Thames gives me the measure of your quality of observation. 
The Bridge discloses the manner of your seeing, and the 
Lark the far-reaching minuteness of your thought the mas- 
terfulness of your sympathy with life. You do not jump on 
me. You grow so to speak around me. Your sentences 
luxuriate in your own atmosphere, they spring up on every 
side till at last the picture is seen through the crafty tra- 
cery of words, like a building through leaves, both distinct 
and hidden. 

And one is willing to see it so and not otherwise. Here 
the straight wall, there the clean line of an angle, the slope 
of a roof, the arch of a gateway, the fragment of a column. 
Sentences stand out as ornamented cornices, arabesques 
catch the sunlight and there are niches of misty shadow. 
Both light and gloom are snared in your phrases. They 
wave before one's eyes in the stir of sentences and one 
feels the greatness, the mistiness of things amongst which 
lives a crowd a crowd mysterious and so terribly simple 
ground to dust by the present, and with a future of ashes 
and dust. 

Yes. "Flicker of wind and panic of mist!" It is almost 
symbolic and ominous coming after the solid impression of 
the "contest of men interlocked with matter" the mortal in 
alliance with the immortal, to make "utility in the gross." 
It is very good wonderfully good. "The material . . . 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

gripped moulded ... by man" and the sudden disclosure 
in the following sentences that man after all hardly masters 
and marks its surface while the material grinds, smashes 
men into chips. I could take it all page by page not be- 
cause you have written it but because it is what it is and 
find a train of thought in every three lines. Indeed that 
suggestiveness is absolutely fatal to the thing as you very 
well know surely. The air is too "thick with the amazing 
advantages of competition" for your prose to ring in it. It 
is too human too much like a song in a haze. It shall die 
like the hurrying crowd it describes but like the crowd it is 

a fact a wonderful fact! 1 must stop, or I would go 

on for ever. You may believe me I haven't lost one of your 
epithets, sentences, lines. The apostrophe to London is 
splendid. But then! . . . 

I have been in bed two days. A cheap price for finishing 
that story. Haven't heard from Pawling yet I send you 
back the Bridge . . . keep the other two another twenty- 
four hours. Shall write again then 

. . . kind regards to Mrs Garnett. Jess sends her love. 
Ever yours 


[January 21, 1897.] 

I was glad to hear from you. Thanks ever so much for 
the books which I fear will be wasted upon me. You know 
how rebellious I am to verse. It's like a curse laid on me. I 
send back the two other fragments and I would write at 
length about them but my wife is laid up and consequently 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I am unable to think; for her neuralgia distracts me more 
than it does herself. 

Why do you speak of "extenuating circumstances." I did 
not look for an excuse for you. 1 love such criminals and 
I would rather rob a man of a last shred of honour than 
take any of your guilt from you. As a matter of fact the 
more I look at your pages the more I cherish your misdeeds. 
I wish I could sin in such a way. I have brought upstairs 
yesterday "The Imaged World" and have been looking 
through it. I haven't seen it for at least a month. And now 
I see plainly many things in it: amongst others, that you are 
incorrigible. And I would sooner see you hanged (by Philis- 
tines) than reformed. That's the whole truth. It may not 
be friendly to say so but at any rate it is not the villainy of 
concealment. The Lark is a chapter! It is a most poetical 
idea a strangely complete vision expressed with continu- 
ous felicity of phrase. That's what it is ! I envy your writing 
the singleminded expression, without a thought for the 
deaf and blind of the world. And when I remember that 
while you were looking at The Thames while you were drink- 
ing in the impressions that are now before me expressed on 
paper I was bothering you with my chatter, I feel I have 
forfeited my right to live that I owe my existence to your 
magnanimity alone. But I do not for all that forswear my 
chatter. Here are four pages of it already! I can't send 
the Nigger. It's too illegible! I haven't heard yet from S. P. 
but suppose it's all right anyhow. He seemed so positive 
when I saw him. I've sent him a suggestion for a title. What 
do you think of it? 

Yours ever 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


A Tale of Ship and Men. 

How [will] this do? It's rather late to ask your 
opinion for I've already sent a slip to P. I really 
daren't inflict on you my MS. Will you send me 
some more of yours? Don't think me cheeky. I 
would like to see it. 

[February 4, 1897.] 

I have made the MS. just a little clearer and send it to 
you the last fifty pages. It is still ghastly but I haven't 
energy enough to copy them for you. If too difficult do not 
read. I had a letter from Pawling. It appears from it that 
the final decision as to serial publication would be taken at 
some meeting (of directors I suppose) on Monday (yester- 
day). I haven't heard any more and am anxious. I do 
nothing yet. Take it easy and so on. But am collapsed for 
a time. I will let you know as soon as I know my fate. 

Ever yours 


Do you know of anybody who could introduce me to the 
London Library. A member is necessary. I enclose form. 

P. S. In the list of members I see Lucas (Edward Ver- 
rall), 21. Bisham Gardens, Highgate. Is he the Lucas I've 
seen and who writes for the Cornhill? If so perhaps you 
could ask him to sign that form. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[February 7, 1897] 

Thanks for the book and your letter. I do not know 
whether I am to be sorry or to rejoice at your publishers 
shying from your London. It is a damnable thing in one 
sense and glorious in another. I envy you almost in a way 
you may imagine a scoundrel envying the serenity of hon- 
ourable power. But it is obvious that dishonesty (of the 
right kind) is the best policy: and henceforth my concern 
shall be to discover and steadfastly pursue a dishonest and 
profitable course With characteristic cynicism I inform 
you that I shall seek illumination in your misfortunes and 
advice from your sophisticated mind which, incapable as 
it is to serve (and distort) your pure art, can yet direct and 
mould my deliberate and conscienceless villainy. The fate 
of the Lark The Bridge The River and of many other 
admirable chapters which I haven't seen shall be a lesson to 
me a lesson in the virtues of shallowness, imbecility, hy- 
pocrisy as instruments of success. 

I enclose here a note from Pawling who is a good fellow. 
I am glad I kept quiet and refrained from worrying him. I 
feel very safe in his hands and I wrote a line to tell him so. 

I am thinking of a short story. 1 Something like the La- 
goon but with less description. A Malay thing. It will be 
easy and may bring a few pence. I shall send it to Unwin; 
ask him to place it (on 10% Com) and look upon it as a fur- 
ther contribution to the Vol. of short stories that is to come 
in the far future. The Rescuer sleeps yet the sleep like of 

1 Karain. 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

death. Will there be a miracle and a resurrection? Quien 

My wife sends her affectionate regards. 

Ever yours 


13th Febr. [1897.] 

I had this morning a charming surprise in the shape of 
the "Spoils of Poynton" sent me by H. James with a very 
characteristic and friendly inscription on the fly leaf. I need 
not tell you how pleased I am. I have already read the book. 
It is as good as anything of his almost a story of love and 
wrongheadedness revolving round a houseful of artistic fur- 
niture. It's Henry James and nothing but Henry James. 
The delicacy and tenuity of the thing are amazing. It is like 
a great sheet of plate glass you don't know it's there till 
you run against it. Of course I do not mean to say it is any- 
thing as gross as plate glass. It's only as pellucid as clean 
plate glass. The only fault I find is its length. It's just a 
trifle too long. Personally I don't complain as you may 
imagine, but I imagine with pain the man in the street trying 
to read it! And my common humanity revolts at the evoked 
image of his suffering. One could almost see the globular 
lobes of his brain painfully revolving and crushing mangling 
the delicate thing. As to his exasperation it is a thing im- 
possible to imagine and too horrid to contemplate. 

I send you some thirty pages of MS. I am heartily 
ashamed of them and am afraid that this instinct of shame 
is right, I feel more of a humbug than ever and yet I lay 
my shame bare to you because you wish it. My wife is this 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

moment reading reverently James' book, and trying honestly 
to distinguish its head from its tail. Her reverence is not af- 
fected. It is a perfectly genuine sentiment inspired by me; 
but her interest is, I suspect, affected for the purpose of 
giving me pleasure. And she will read every line! Ton my 
word it's most touching and only women are capable of 
such delicately penetrating sacrifices. I do nothing but 
yawn and tear my hair. 

Yours ever 



[16th February, 1897.] 

I was glad to get your letter. Thanks ever so much for 
your kind invitation. As a matter of fact we do move in 
on the 12th by special arrangement but we both are so 
anxious to accept your invitation that even had we intended 
to move on the fifth we would have put off the dismal 
ceremony. So if Jess (who sends her love) is well we shall 
see you on the proposed date. I shall be in the Mecca on 
Thursday between 2.30 and 3. Call in if you have time and 
are not afraid of being bored. My affectionate regards. 

Yours ever 



[February 19, 1897.] 

I wrote to my literary I friend 1 saying that you prom- 

1 John Galsworthy 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ised to give quick attention to his stories. Their title is: 
"From the Four Corners," 

his pseudonym I do not know, and he is going to send them 
(probably early tomorrow) in the usual way. 

You have cheered me immensely yesterday You were 
so much better than my expectations and from you I always 
expect more than a little you know! 

I had a note from James. Wants me to lunch with him on 
Thursday next so there is something to live for at last' 
He is quite playful about it. Says we shall be alone no 
one to separate us if we quarrel. It's the most delicate flat- 
tery I've ever been victim to. 

I shall try to begin that short story today. My heart is 
in my boots when I look at the white sheets. Offer up a 
short prayer for me. 

Ever yours 


[28th February, '97.] 

Ecco la! I deliver my misguided soul into your hands. 
Be merciful. I want you, besides as much criticism as you 
have time and inclination for, to tell me whether the thing 1 
is printable. Think of your reputation as well as mine 
for once your name appears on the fly leaf on any book of 
mine you shall be associated in my downfall. People'll say 
you've patronised an ass. Reflect Reflect. 

And understand well this: If you say "Burn!" I will 
burn and won't hate you. But if you say: "Correct 

1 Ka/rain. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Alter!" I won't do it but shall hate you henceforth and 
for ever! Till then 

Ever your 


10th March '97. 

I write according to promise and Hope shall take the let- 
ter to town tomorrow. I have been at Karain and have re- 
written all you had seen. A painful task. Strangely, 
though I always recognised the justness of your criticism it 
is only this evening after I had finished the horrid job that 
the full comprehension of what you objected to came to me 
like a flash of light into a dark cavern. It came and went, 
but it left me informed with such knowledge as comes of a 
short vision. The best kind of knowledge because the most 
akin to revelation. 

I have thought of You much. Somehow you have in- 
truded into many moments of my life. You have appeared 
between lines of print, in the red glow of coals and in other 
incongruous places. And I still think that there were several 
shades of truth in all the impertinences of my talk with you 
and about you. I think your mission is to work for art 
and I know you will work artistically for art for the very 
essence of it. 

I haven't heard from Pawling up to now. Could you 
call? But not from me I think. See how things shape 
themselves. I am afraid I may be compelled to ask him to 
advance me a little cash say 25. What do you think? 
There is a blessed old kite which I flew a couple of years 
ago and it is coming to roost at the end of this month. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Hope poor devil is so damnably hard up that I can't 
call him to the rescue. And if P. would do it it would be 
very convenient. But it isn't strictly speaking a matter of 
life and death. I wouldn't do anything to shock him you 

Write me what you hear. Do not fear to deal a blow. 
My respectful regards to Mrs. Garnett. Jess sends her love. 

Ever yours 





12th March [1897.] 

I don't know how to thank you for your exertions. And 
in fact I won't thank you. You have done enough to earn 
the blackest ingratitude and you shall not be disappointed of 
your reward. 

I haven't got the cheque (how pretty the word looks!) 
but I shall no doubt receive it tonight or tomorrow. I do 
not distrust Pawling as you may well imagine. The man 
who can't appreciate the perversity of the Spoils of P. must 
redeem himself by the most rectilinear truthfulness. I must 
say, though, I don't exactly understand my position vis-a-vis 
of the N. R. Is it a question of "to be or not to be" or the 
more gross question of time only? To tell you the truth, 
now Henley has accepted me I don't care much whether I 
appear or not in the N. R. Or at least care only for the ad- 
ditional cash it may bring. Otherwise I would like to appear 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

at once in book form and be done with it. It would settle 
doubts and if it kills hope it would also kill incertitude. 

I don't understand the infernal farrago you write about 
yourself. About your inability to express yourself etc. etc. 
I can't lay my hands on the letter to quote everything is 
upside down . . . round me here as we shift camp at 7 a.m. 
tomorrow. But if you mean to say that you do not make 
yourself understood by me it's an odious libel on both of us. 
Where do you think the illumination the short and vivid 
flash of which I have been boasting to you came from? 
Whyl From, your words, words, words. They exploded like 
stored powder barrels while another man's words would 
have fizzled out in speaking and left darkness unrelieved 
by a forgotten spurt of futile sparks. An explosion is the 
most lasting thing in the universe. It leaves disorder, re- 
membrance, room to move, a clear space. Ask your Nihilist 
friends. But I am afraid you haven't blown me to pieces. 
I am afraid I am like the Russian governmental system. It 
will take a good many bursting charges to make me change 
my ways. I trust you will persevere, for I feel horribly the 
oppression of my individuality. I am going on with Karain 
and going wrong no doubt I I'll write soon again. Mean- 
time think tenderly act brutally dream sweetly. 

Ever yours 


[March 24, 1897] 


I am ashamed of not having written directly I had Pawl- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ing's letter. It's that infernal story. 1 I can't shake myself 
free of it, though I don't like it never shall! But I can get 
rid of it only by finishing it coute-que-coute. 

Pawling wrote a very friendly letter but nothing explicit. 
I have still no idea when I am likely to come out. The 
cheque for 30 was the only solid fact in the envelope. And 
after all no man can ask for more. 

Do think of your work. You are the man to think about 
it. If I venture in the fulness of my affection to expect 
something from you you know better what I want than 
any man alive. See, then, that I get it. Bleed, sweat, writhe, 
groan, weep, curse. It's no concern of mine. I care too much 
for you to count your anguish anything but a trifle. I want 
your very life. Ever yours, JPH. CONRAD. 

Jess sends her love. 

Sorry can't come to town. Can't you come here? Think 
of some near date. For a few days if you could stand it. 
Is such felicity not for the likes of me? 

14 Ap. 97. 

Karain gone to Unwin today. In the letter I ask U. to 
give the story to you before sending out amongst editors. I 
ask you to read it specially because it is your advice that 
has reshaped it and made it what it is in good. I have not 
got rid of all the bad (in the first IS pages) but I am never- 
theless grateful to you for putting me on the right track. I 
worked rather hard. Been seedy. How are you all? Jess 
sends love. Ever yours 


1 Karain. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

If you can find out where they are going to send it at first 
tell me. 

[April 20, 1897.] 

The last few lines of your letter saddened me, 1 for if the 
smallest world is the safest from pain yet it is painful to me 
to learn the manner in which you take account of your 

Wisdom says: do not fill the vacated place never! This 
is the only way to a life with phantoms who never perish; 
who never abandon one; who are always near and depart 
only when it is time also for yourself to go. I can tell for I 
have lived during many days with the faithful dead. 

I suggest it with diffidence but perhaps it would not be 
a jar and perhaps it might be soothing for you to come here 
for a few days (as many as you like) . You need not open 
your lips for days if you like; you may look at unfamiliar 
scenery walk on strange paths. No one shall intrude upon 
your thoughts unless you consent to the intrusion. That 
much I can guarantee. We cannot, unfortunately, ask you 
both or you three at the same time owing to as yet defi- 
cient accommodation; but perhaps Mrs. Garnett and Bunny 
would come when the weather is more settled. As to you, 
if you feel in the least like it just drop me a line the day be- 

1 This refers to the tragic death of a friend, Eustace Hartley, who was the 
life and heart of the circle of many friends he had gathered round him. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

fore so that I can meet the train. This is all said with diffi- 

Jess sends her love. She is very anxious you should come. 

Thanks for all you say about the story. If it is tolerable 
it is only because you have recalled me to a tolerable mood. 
I will not now try to explain what chaotic impulses guided 
me in writing but as I wrote I tried to remember what you 
said. My dear fellow you keep me straight in my work and 
when it is done you still direct its destinies! 1 And it seems 
to me that if you ceased to do either life itself would cease. 
For me you are the reality outside, the expressed thought, 
the living voice! And without you I would think myself 
alone in an empty universe. 

Ever yours 


[May 26, 1897.] 

I do not know how to thank you for your letter about the 
Nigger. It has made me happy and very proud. And I am 
glad that your name shall be inscribed on something you like. 
I saw Pawling yesterday and he was very friendly. He 
comes for a sail on the 12th June. I trust we shall see you 
here before that time. I do want to hear you talk and I also 
want to ventilate my naive ideas. 

Marius came this morning and I am licking my chops in 
anticipation. Do come soon. Jess sends her love to you all. 

Yours ever 


il had told Conrad that Kvrain would surely suit Black-wood's Magazine. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

2d June '97. 

Wife has not been well, but is better now much. I did 
send the 1st part of Rescuer to Pawling who seems very 
pleased with it. He is an excellent fellow and you are a 
super-excellent one to have introduced me to him. Of course 
I have not written much while Jess was in bed being busy 
nursing and so on. I must go on now with the Return, 
then shall jump upon the Rescuer. The Nigger is bought in 
the States by the Batchelor Syndicate for serial and by Ap- 
pleton for book. I begin in the August Number of the 
New R. (26th July). 

Jess sends her love to you both. When are you coming. 
[I can't ask] . . . you same time with Pawling on account 
of sleeping accommodation. He comes on the llth-12th. 
Can't you come this week? I shan't go in the boat 1 this 

Ever yours 


[June 11, 1897.] 


You are a brick to send me your wife's admirable trans- 
lation of Prose poems. 2 Won't I have a real good time with 
them tonight! 

I trust you are well. I am so so horribly irritable and 
muddle-headed. Thinking of Rescuer; writing nothing; 

1 Conrad shared a sailing boat with his friend Hope on the Thames near 

2 Dream Tales and Prose Poems, by Ivan Turgenev Translated by Con- 
stance Garnett. Hcinemann, 1897 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

often restraining tears; never restraining curses. At times 
thinking the world has come to an end at others convinced 
that it has not yet come out of chaos. But generally I feel 
like the impenitent thief on the cross (he is one of my early 
heroes) defiant and bitter. 

Pawling comes today. Wish could have had you here. 
Mind you come soon. Jess sends her love to you both. She 
has been seedy. My kindest regards to Mrs Garnett and 
love to the boy. 

Ever yours 


18th July '97. 

I suppose that after reading this you will think that "the 
kindness of Providence for an undeserving reptile has 
reached a point where it is open to criticism" (Mark Twain). 

The facts are these: After I saw you off that day I turned 
to tramp home and got halfway there when my Private Devil 
got into me. This P. D. suggested the refusing of Black- 
wood's offer and argued with me all the morning. He ended 
by convincing me as you might expect so I wrote to the 
Patron that 40 was my price for Karain and nothing less 
would do. The truth is that my P. D. wanted to annoy the 
Patron who advised me to accept the Scotch offer. This is 
the secret of my P. D's activity. 

Yesterday the Patron forwarded me a letter from 
B'wood's which says that they accept my terms on the un- 
derstanding that I shall give them the refusal of any short 
story I may write. As soon as I recovered from the shock I 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

wrote saying I would be most happy to agree if Messrs. 
Blackwood undertake to decide upon the MSS. within a fort- 
night from reception and in case of acceptance print within 
four months. This is a distinct good turn in my affairs and 
like everything else good I owe it to you for did you not ad- 
vise to try Blackwood? I hope you won't be angry with my 
cheek. Success justifies the means dont you know. 

Jess was very crestfallen to find you gone and scolded me 
for not wiring her on Sat. to come back at once. I assured 
her of your complete forgiveness was I right? I go on 
groping through the Return. I feel helpless. That thing has 
bewitched me. I can't leave it off. 

Ever yours 


I shall send Educ. Sentimentale on Tuesday. Remember 
me to your wife. I did not know she translated Tolstoi. I 
shall get it at once from the L. L. 

11, Paternoster Buildings 


E. C 

[August, 1897.] 

Bo not think me a beast. I have been so very idle and 
unsettled that I could not find time to send you a line 
much less to correct the MS the next in turn for you to 
see. Today I go home and shall not come to town till my 
last short story is finished. I'll then bring it to you in the 

Till then always and ever yours 

[100 1 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[August 24, 1897] 

I am so glad you wrote. You gave me tone. I've been a 
martyr to various worries and can't send you the Return 
yet. I send you however something else: a short preface 
to the "Nigger." 

I want you not to be impatient with it and if you think it 
at all possible to give it a chance to get printed. That rests 
entirely with you the Nigger is your book and besides you 
know very well I daren't make any move without your leave. 
I've no more judgment of what is fitting in the way of liter- 
ature than a cow. And you must be the Lord of that one 
head of cattle (Ain't I rural in my images? The farm tells. 

And let me hear the decree soon to ease my mind. On my 
eyes be it I shall not draw one breath till your sublime 
Highness has spoken to the least of his slaves. We demand 

Cunninghame Graham has not been. We exchanged a 
few letters. Tell you all about it when we meet. God be 
with you brother. 

Jess sends her love. 

Ever yours 


1897. 28th Augst. 



Thanks many many times for your sympathetic and wise 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

letter. I put sympathy first the gift the unchanging 
thing the most precious to me. But as to your wisdom I 
am ready to admit without discussion that it surpasses the 
sagacity of the most venomous serpents. 

As you may imagine I do not care a fraction of a damn 
for the passage you have struck out 1 that is, the personal 
part. But I think that the eight lines at the end (of the 
paragraph struck out) conveying the opinion that in "art 
alone there is a meaning in endeavour as apart from success" 
should be worked in somehow. And whether your wisdom 
lets me keep them in or not I tell you plainly fangs or no 
fangs that there is the saving truth the truth that saves 
most of us from eternal damnation. There I 

I shall promptly patch the hole you have made and show 
you the thing with the infamous taint out of it. If then, 
there is the slightest chance of it doing some good to the 
Nigger it shall not go to the Saturday or any other Review. 
Hang the filthy lucre. I would do any mortal thing for 
Jimmy you know. 

I have a bit of news which I am bursting with. The other 
day I wrote to Blackwood's asking them to send me proofs 
early and so on just to give them my address. Yesterday 
I had a charming, friendly letter from Win. Blackwood say- 
ing he would have the story set up on purpose and at once 
asking me whether I would mind the story 2 coming out in 
November instead of October, but leaving it to me and so 
on in that unheard of tone. At the end he asks me whether 
I have a long story "on the stocks" and wishes to know 
whether there is enough of it for him to see with a view to 

1 In the preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus. 

2 Karain. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

running it as a serial in the magazine. Imagine my satisfac- 
tion! I answered in a befitting manner and by-and-bye 
shall let him have the Rescue. All the good moments the 
real good ones in my new life I owe to you and I say it 
without a pang; which is also something of which you may 
boast, O ! Wiser than the serpents. You sent me to Pawling 
you sent me to Blackwoods when are you going to send 
me to heaven? I am anxious to depart soon so as not to be 
too late for the next batch of immortals but I don't care to 
go without an introduction from you. May your days be 
steeped in serenity and your visions be only of sevenfold 

Yours ever 


24th Sept. [1897] 


The Return being accomplished in about 23,000 steps it 
is natural that I should ask you to come and kick it back 
again whence it came. The fact is my dear fellow your 
criticism, even when most destructive, is so shamelessly 
adulatory that I simply can't live without it. As a matter of 
fact it's about all I have to live upon. Please consider! 

Seriously. Am I to send it to you? Are you at leisure 
and have you the disposition? How much nicer it would be 
if you could come. Say on Thursday or rather on any 
day after Monday. Eh? I suppose tho' no such luck. Still 
do give a sign of life, so that I know where to pursue you. 

I've asked Pawling to send me a copy of the Nigger in 
paper cover of the copyright issue you know. They 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

aren't for sale. I thought I would ask you whether you 
would offer it to your mother who has so kindly consented 
to be misguided into enthusiasm by her undutiful son. It 
would not be the common edition at any rate and I shall 
not have any copies "de luxe" to distribute. 

What have you been doing? I do want a real talk with 
you. And now this infernal Return is off my mind we 
must, we must meet. 

Ever yours 


1897. 27th Sept. 


I was so sure you would write on Sunday that I did send 
to the P. 0. this evening on purpose to fetch your letter. I 
knew it would be there. And I always always, want to 
hear from you. 

When I wrote to Black wood I did say exactly what you 
suggest in your letter. I said that I was under obligation 
to Wm. Heinemann and that the book was theirs. My corre- 
spondence with Blackwood is very friendly. He sent me 
proofs "of your excellent story" begging me to do whatever 
I wanted in the way of correcting "as 'Maga' does not mind 
the expense of corrections" and so on. Since I sent the 
Rescue (that's the new title) I had a letter from the firm 
saying that Mr. William Blackwood was ill, but would read 
the story and write to me as soon as he got better. I wrote 
expressing regrets at the news and asking him to take his 
time over it. I haven't heard since. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I've also exchanged a couple of very friendly letters with 
Pawling. He is a good fellow. The N. of the "N" conies out 
in November sure. P. wrote a personal letter to Scribner 
offering the N of the "N." The book is being set up. I've 
sent him a fair copy of the preface with the personal para- 
graph taken out as marked by you. It is quite long enough 
without it. It is certainly much better as expurgated by 
you. I told P. you said it would do no harm to the book; 
I also asked him to read it and give me his opinion from 
the Public point of view. In the same letter I asked him for 
the second time to send me the copyright vol. Had no 
reply yet of course. 

The Return completes the Vol. of short stories promised 
to Unwin. The promise is mine and I would not go back 
on it. Together it'll be 63000 words. Five stories. I've 
been casting about for a title for the whole. I thought of: 

Tales of Unrest. 
What do you think? 

When I parted with Unwin I said: you shan't have 
the Nigger but as you've copyrighted in America for me 
you shall have other stories to make up a vol. I won't 
touch the American rights whatever they are. Otherwise 
you shall have the stories on your own terms. 

Now, his terms, roughly, were 50 down, and 10% pro- 
gressing to 15%. I shall propose: 60 down, in two payments 
one in January of 30 the other half on publication. Per- 
centages as he likes (Pawling gives me 15% and 20%). 
Half translation rights. Can I ask for these terms. Is it 
fair to F. U.? 

I fancy, if the Nigger hits, he will make a good thing out 
of the vol: on such terms. If the Nigger don't hit then 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

nothing matters much to me and he would pull a long face 
at anything at a gift at a premium anything! 

The Nigger according to sample sent me by P. makes up 
to 288 pages. The preface another five or six if not more. 
I think it can come out at 6/-. (My royalties are on Pub- 
lished price throughout.) 

Ain't I a sordidly vile old man? At times I am myself 
amazed at my impudent desire to be able to live. And at 
times I feel sick sick at heart with doubts, with a gnawing 
unbelief in myself. It's awful' 

The Return! And you you are jealous! Of what? The 
subject is yours as much as ever it has been. The work is 
vile or else good. I don't know. I can't know. But I 
swear to you that I won't alter a line a word not a comma 
for you. There! And this for the reason that I have a 
physical horror of that story. I simply won't look at it any 
more. It has embittered five months of my life. I hate it. 

Now, as to selling the odious thing. It has 23000 words 
who would take it? It won't stand dividing absolutely 
not. Shall I give it to Unwin to place? What Mag: would 
you advise? Yellow Book or Chapman perhaps. Eh? 

It is not quite typed yet. I shall send it off to you first 
either tomorrow evening (this letter goes at noon) or 
Wednesday noon to the Cearne. I don't think I'll be in 
town this week. Come as soon as you can. I am full of 
things which I want to disgorge. 

Ever yours 


Jess sends her love to both of you. Perceive that you are 
still "the best man in the world" a position that of right 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

should belong to me. But women are queer and wives 
still more so. (This in confidence.) 

[September 29, 1897.] 

I don't know whether to weep or to laugh at your letter. 
I have already torn out several handfuls of hair. And there 
seems nothing else left to do. 

I am hoist with my own petard. My dear fellow what I 
aimed at was just to produce the effect of cold water in every 
one of my man's 1 speeches. I swear to you that was my 
intention. I wanted to produce the effect of insincerity, of 
artificiality. Yes! I wanted the reader to see him think 
and then to hear him speak and shudder. The whole 
point of the joke is there. I wanted the truth to be first 
dimly seen through the fabulous untruth of that man's con- 
victions of his idea of life and then to make its way out 
with a rush at the end. But if I have to explain that to you 
to you! then I've egregiously failed. I've tried with all 
my might to avoid just these trivialities of rage and distrac- 
tion which you judge necessary to the truth of the picture. 
I counted it a virtue, and lo and behold 1 You say it is sin. 
Well! Never more! It is evident that my fate is to be de- 
scriptive and descriptive only. There are things I must 
leave alone. 

This thing however is. (the MS has not yet arrived) And 
the question presents itself: is it to be put away in an un- 
honoured grave or sent into the world? To tell you the 
truth I haven't the courage to alter it. It seems to me, if I 

1 The hero of The Return. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

do, it will become so utterly something else something I did 
not mean. What strange illusions we scribblers havel Prob- 
ably the thing means nothing anyhow. 

Can it be placed as it is in some Mag? Perhaps before 
the book comes out I shall see the true daylight from some- 
where and then and then! I must talk it over with you. 
I do not want to defend it. I want only to thoroughly un- 
derstand. Thanks many times. Write when you can. 

Ever yours 


8th Oct 1897 

How horribly tired of me you must be. Yes. I begin 
to see just to see a glimmer. My dearest fellow I am too 
obtuse for one letter to convince me. But my feelings are 
fine enough for me to be horrified at the thought of all 
the time you are wasting upon my unworthy person. Do 
you know I am at times in the frightful situation of thinking 
that you are absolutely right in your blame and oh hor- 
rors I utterly wrong in your praise. That there is not a 
single redeeming line in the story! I 1 I can't look at it. It 
torments me like a memory of a bad action which you 
friend are trying to paliate. In vain. I am a prey to re- 
morse. I should not have written that thing. It's criminal. 

I'm sending it to Chapman today. 

Yes I see. I am unreal even when I try for reality, so 
when I don't try I must be exasperating. I feel like a man 

i The Return In the Author's Note to Tales of Unrest, Collected Edi- 
tion, 1919, Conrad says- "Indeed my innermost feeling now is that 'The 
Return' is a left-handed production . I know how much the writing of 
that fantasy has cost me in sheer toil, in temper, and in disillusion," 


Letters from Joseph Coi^rad 

who can't move, in a dream. To move is vital it's salvation 
and I can't! I feel what you mean and I am utterly "pow- 
erless to imagine anything else. It's like being bewitched, 
it's like being in a cataleptic trance. You hear people weep- 
ing over you, making ready to bury you and you can't 
give a sign of life! I wish to goodness I could not believe 
you. But I can't. I feel all you say and all the same I re- 
main in the dark as though you had spoken an impassioned 
discourse in Chinese. I feel and I can't understand. I 
am stirred and I can't grasp my own emotion. It is too 
awful without joking. 

Perhaps in time perhaps in time! Who knows? If you 
don't abandon me in disgust I may yet learn the truth of art 
which you possess. Even now I have an imperfect appre- 
hension for that story has been a heavy trial to me while I 
was writing it. It has made me ill: I hated while I wrote. 

Thanks. Thanks. I must for a while think of other 
things. I can't send you the MS pages 1 because you could 
not find yourself in them. I can't myself now. There are 
heaps of them; whole pages of erasures with perhaps one 
solitary and surviving line hiding amongst the ranges of 
scored out words. 

When the T S. 2 returns from C & FC as I feel it will I 
shall send it to you. I would like your wife to read it. I 
would like I have much courage I would like to know 
what she thinks. 

Blackwood don't give a sign of life about the Rescue. A 
new serial begins in Oct. It may run six months perhaps. 
It would give me time to finish mine. 

i The Rescue 

*The typescript of The Return 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I don't think I will ever write anything more. That shall 
wear off, but meantime I can't write a word of the Rescue. 

I want to make it a kind of glorified book for boys you 
know. No analysis. No damned mouthing. Pictures 
pictures pictures. That's what I want to do. And I can 
do that. Can't I? 

I'm going to pull myself together. Shall write you soon. 
With greatest affection 

Ever yours 


Monday evening 
[October 11, 1897.] 


Luckily I walked down to the p. o. and got your letter to- 
night. I did not come on Thursday as I intended because I 
positively could not get away for domestic reasons. Then 
on Friday most unexpectedly I had to go to town, and, 
being there, I called on Pawling. He told me he had seen 
you. I asked him whether you had relieved your feelings by 
cursing me to him. At that he smiled with reserve and nat- 
urally I did not insist. 

My dearest fellow I entreat you to take my letters liter- 
ally. I never have any arriere-pensee when writing to you 
consequently I cannot develop any sarcastic tendency. I do 
not remember exactly now what I have written in my last 
letter to you, but I know I wrote guided by what I felt then 
what I feel now: a very real gratitude for your friendship, 
for your appreciation, for your criticism; a gratitude for 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

what you are to me for what you say to me. Do, in the 
name of all the gods, do give me credit for being able to say 
damn you if such was my thought. I, all along, act on the 
assumption that you would say damn you if such an expres- 
sion were necessary. That's the true friendship. I wrote 
that you have the knowledge of artistic effect because I be- 
lieve you have. You do know. I wish to goodness you 
didn't. But the more I think of the story 1 the more I feel (I 
don't see yet) the justice of your pronouncement as to the 
unreality of the dialogue. Where we differ is there: you 
say: it is too logical I say: It is too crude; but I admit that 
the crudeness (proceeding from want of skill) produces that 
effect of logic which is offensive. You see I wanted to give 
out the gospel of the beastly bourgeois and wasn't clever 
enough to do it in a more natural way. Hence the logic 
which resembles the logic of a melodrama. The childishness 
of mind coming to the surface. All this I feel. I don't see; 
because if I did see it I would also see the other way the 
mature way the way of art. I would work from convic- 
tion to conviction through inevitable moments to the final 
situation. Instead of which I went on creating the moments 
for the illustration of the idea. Am I right in that view? 
If so the story is bad art. It is built on the same falsehood 
as a melodrama. 

What delighted me was the remark in your 2nd letter that 
the phrasing was good. I did try to phrase well and it was 
not easy, writing as I did with a constant, haunting fear of 
being lost in the midst of thickening untruth. I felt all the 
time there was something wrong with that story. I feel it 
now more than ever. All I've written above is only an hon- 

1 The Return. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

est attempt to understand the failure. It is very important 
that I should. Am I anywhere near it yet? 

I sent the story to Chap & Hall with a letter, subtle but 
full of asurance. I had an answer by return of post from 
Oswald Crawford. He said the story is too long for any 
single number of the Magazine. But he would like to have 
my work which he knows and admires. He will read and 
decide within a fortnight. He thinks it may be used in the 
Xmas Number, (Here I nearly fell off my chair in a fit of 
laughter. Can't you imagine the story read by the domestic 
hearthstone in the season of festivity?) tho' it is somewhat 
too long even for that. He wants to know my price for 
serial rights Brit: and Anr 

I replied: Delighted he likes my work, follows a small 
lecture on art to prove that the story cannot be divided. 
(If so the MORAL effect lost.) A hint that the moral ef- 
fect is nothing less than beautiful A sentimental phrase 
about the moral endeavor giving courage to the worker. A 
declaration that I attach a great importance to the story. 
Then: my price for serial rights Bnt & Am is 50 and I point 
out that this is at a rate less than what Messrs Blackwood 
pay me for my story to appear in their Nover Number. 
That is perfectly true. 50 works out at about 43/- per 
thou: while Blackwood pays 45/- 

A week has elapsed since and I haven't heard, but the time 
is not up. I nourish hopes. What do you think? 

I haven't heard from Blackwood. When sending back 
the proof of Karain I asked how was Mr Blackwood and 
had no answer. I don't think I'll write yet as I have plainly 
told him to take his time. 

I can't get on with the Rescue. In all these days I haven't 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

written a line, but there hadn't been a day when I did not 
wish myself dead. It is too ghastly. I positively don't 
know what to do. Am I out to the end of my tether? Some- 
times I think it must be so. 

It did me good to hear that the Nigger works miracles. 
You are a dear fellow to send such news. Pawling after 
proposing me a paper copy now says he hasn't one. I am 
horribly disappointed at not being able to carry out my idea 
of offering it to your Mother. 

Heinemann objects to the bloody's in the book. That Is- 
raelite is afraid of women. I didn't trust myself to say much 
in Pawling's room. Moreover Pawling is a good fellow 
whom I like more every time I see him; and it seemed to 
me he wanted me to give way. So I struck 3 or 4 bloody's 
out. I am sure there is a couple left yet but, damn it, I am 
not going to hunt 'em up. I've sent away the last batch of 
proofs today. Now the Nigger is cast adrift from me. The 
book strikes me as good; but I quite foresee it will have no 

What do you think of the Gadfly 7 1 I wrote what I 
thought to P, who rejoined gallantly. But it comes to this, 
if his point of view is accepted, the having suffered is suffi- 
cient excuse for the production of rubbish. Well! It may 
be true too. I may yet make my profit of that argument. 
However I am not "hollow-eyed" and the author of the 
Gadfly is. Women won't play fair you know. A hollow- 
eyed man once tried to impress that truth upon me. I think 
he was right. But the book is very delightful in a way. 
Look at the logic: He found his mutton-chop very tough 
therefore he arose and cursed his aunt. And the idea of that 

1 The Gadfly, by E Voynich. Heinemann 1897. 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

battered Gadfly in kid gloves finding his revenge in scold- 
ing, is well feminine, or I have lived all these bitter years 
in vain. 

It is perfectly delightful. I don't remember ever reading 
a book I disliked so much. 

I see, the Tormentor 1 is booming in the press. Have 
you found another nugget of virgin gold for the "Patron"? 
Ah! You do know; you do know. I own that the Stan- 
dard's review of the Liza 2 amazes me. It is no more than 
justice, but to think the Standard could see it! It is the 
Annus Mirabilis. D'you think I will get my share of loaves 
and fishes. Eh? Well never mind. The book is written. 
What worries me now is the unwritten book. 
Ever yours 


Have you enough of London to send me. Would you 
send it? I deserve it for there is hardly a day I do not look 
into the Imaged World FOR ITSELF not because you've 
written it. 

[October 14, 1897.] 

It was good to read your letter. I know you've made me 
and therefore wouldn't be human if you did not take in- 
terest in me. But I like to hear you say so you can't say it 
too often. It is balm and nectar and sunshine. 

I shall be more than delighted to be introduced to your 
Mother on Friday. You mean on Friday the 22nddon't 
you? But I am ready on any day. 

1 The Tormentor, by Benjamin Swift Fisher Unwin. 1897 

2 Lua of Lambeth, by W Somerset Maugham. Fisher Unwin 1897. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I shall go to town tomorrow to meet P and Crane. I do 
admire him. I shan't have to pretend. 

I'm having a tussle with the Rescue. I've sent a long 
epitome to P. The necessity to write it out has brought me 
to terms with myself. But it's most damnably hard all 
the same. I can't, somehow, swing out so to speak. 

Ever yours 


Tuesday [October 26, 1897.] 

I shall be near Queen Anne's statue before St Paul's at 1 
o'clock on Thursday. Do come and lunch with me. I have 
an amusing and instructive tale to tell a report to make 
and certain documents to show. 

Chap, and Hall (0. Crawford) rejected the Return which 
I fully expected. Only he need not have been three weeks 
about it. However I feel cheerful and have at last made a 
start with the Rescue. 


Let me know by a word that you've received this. 

4th November, 1897 

Meldrum thinks B. means to take R. without reserve. 
Also thinks that 250 for serial and SO for book and 15% 
20% are terms B. will give. Is going to write informally to 
find out like from himself and let me know early next 
week. Thanks for your advice. 

Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


I had this morning a letter from Pawling so utterly sat- 
isfactory to me that there can be no question of even think- 
ing about anyone else as long as he wants me. I am very 
glad to think that last night the spirit moved me to drop 
him a postcard where I told him "I was sorry I worried 
him about those matters on top of his other worries. That I 
would write for him rather than for anybody else. That I 
believed in him implicitly and wished nothing more than to 
stick to him as long as he would have me." While I wrote 
the postcard he wrote the letter. And so the truth came out 
on both sides. He is a good fellow. I trust he will see I am 
not a hopelessly bad lot. He promises to give 100 for the 
next book. To obtain 400 for serial rights. And he writes 
very nicely. I had rather have his promise than another 
man's cash down. I shall show or send you his letter so 
that you can see how much you've done for me. I have also 
a paper copy of the Nigger. I shall correct it this evening. 
Do you think it would be breach of etiquette if I send it 
direct to the Museum. Hadn't I better send it through you? 
I am immensely relieved. I hope I've done with the selling 
business for life. 

Ever yours 


The Patron Jew sent bills agreements etc. etc. I'm done 
with him. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

[November 6, '9 7.] 

I send you P's letter. I replied to it that as long as they 
stick to me like this I shall stick to them. I trust the selling 
business is over for life. 

I send you a copy of the N for your mother. Present it 
from me if you think it isn't too cheeky of me. I've writ- 
ten a few lines there. 1 

Now I can shut my door and work. 

Thanks are due to you for introducing me to that good 
fellow P. I hope he will never regret taking me up. 

Remember me kindly to your wife. 
Ever yours 

Jess sends her love. 

1 This issue of The Nigger of the Narcissus, is one of seven copies issued 
by the publisher for the purposes of copyrighting the book, and is cat- 
alogued in Wise's "Bibliography" of Joseph Conrad's Works. The faded blue 
paper wrapper has for sub-title "A Tale of the Forecastle" corrected in Con- 
rad's own hand to "A Tale of the Sea " The motto on the title-page is not 
printed but is inserted in Conrad's hand The imprint is London. William 
Hememann, 21 Bedford Street, W C , 1897 (All Rights Reserved ) On the 
back of the title-page Conrad has written one of his characteristically flatter- 
ing inscriptions 


Your son & my friend whose sympathy, criticism & counsel have 
encouraged & guided me ever since I took pen m hand has told me 
that you like this tale I wish I could have expressed my sense of 
your commendation by offering you an unique vellum copy. But 
since that is impossible then the other extreme would be better than 
the middle course I venture therefore to beg your acceptance of 
this plain paper copy of the Copyright impression which, simple as 
it is, cannot at any rate be obtained for money. I am, Madam, 
Your most obedient humble servant, 

The Author. 
4th Nov , 1897. 

There are a few corrections of misprints and a few erasures of words in Con- 
rad's hand in the hundred and eighty pages. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

26th Nov. [1897] 

Thanks for letter and books. When I see Crane I shall 
shake him till he drops the two stories. Cunninghame 
Graham writes to ask me to dine with him tonight. I shall 
do so for I am interested in the man. . . . The chiel writes 
to the papers you know. I am doing nothing and suspect 
myself of going crazy. Well, we shall see. Humphry 
James is good. 1 Is he very deep or very simple? And by 
the bye, R. Bridges is a poet. 2 I'm damned if he ain't! 
There's more poesy in one page of "Shorter Poems" than in 
the whole volume of Tennyson. This is my deliberate 
opinion. And what a descriptive power! The man hath 
wings sees from on high. It is the real thing a direct ap- 
peal to mankind, not a certain kind of man. It is natural 
beauty not would-be beautiful notions. I love him. 

Ever yours 

J. C. 

5th Dec. 1897. 

The Nigger came out to date I believe but is not adver- 
tised in the Sat. Review. As soon as I get my copies I shall 
forward a specimen to the Cearne. 

I had Crane here last Sunday. We talked and smoked 
half the night. He is strangely hopeless about himself. I 

1 Paddy's Woman, by Humphrey James Fisher Unwin 1897 This author, 
a young Irishman, never received the attention his book of short stories de- 
served He told me that for cheapness he lived in Italy, and taught English, 
but I lost sight of him 

2 1 had sent Conrad the Shorter Poems. It is interesting to record here 
Conrad's verdict twenty-seven years previous to the presentation to Dr. 
Bridges of the testimonial from a hundred admirers in October, 1924. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

like him. The two stories are excellent. Of course A Man 
and Some Others is the best of the two but the boat thing 1 
interested me more. His eye is very individual and his ex- 
pression satisfies me artistically. He certainly is the im- 
pressionist and his temperament is curiously unique. His 
thought is concise, connected, never very deep yet often 
startling. He is the only impressionist and only an impres- 
sionist. Why is he not immensely popular? With his 
strength, with his rapidity of action, with that amazing 
faculty of vision why is he not? He has outline, he has 
colour, he has movement, with that he ought to go very far. 
But will he? I sometimes think he won't. It is not an 
opinion it is a feeling. I could not explain why he disap- 
points me why my enthusiasm withers as soon as I close 
the book. While one reads, of course he is not to be ques- 
tioned. He is the master of his reader to the very last 
line then apparently for no reason at all he seems to let 
go his hold. It is as if he had gripped you with greased fin- 
gers. His grip is strong but while you feel the pressure on 
your flesh you slip out from his hand much to your own 
surprise. That is my stupid impression and I give it to you 
in confidence. It just occurs to me that it is perhaps my own 
self that is slippery. I don't know. You would know. No 

My soul is like a stone within me. I am going through 
the awful experience of losing a friend. 2 Hope comes every 
evening to console me but he has a hopeless task. Death is 
nothing and I am used to its rapacity. But when life robs 
one of a man to whom one has pinned one's faith for twenty 

1 The Open Boat. 

2 To whom Conrad had dedicated one of his books. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

years the wrong seems too monstrous to be lived down. Yet 
it must. And I don't know why, how, wherefore. Besides 
there are circumstances which make the event a manifold 
torment Some day I will tell you the tale. I can't write 
it now. But there is a psychological point in it. However 
this also does not matter. 

The Nigger is ended and the N. R. stops. I suppose 
you've heard already. Henley printed the preface at the 
end as an Author's note. It does not shine very much, but 
I am glad to see it in type. This is all the news. No criti- 
cisms appeared as yet. I am trying to write the Rescue and 
all my ambition is to make it good enough for a magazine 
readable in a word. I doubt whether I can. I struggle with- 
out pleasure like a man certain of defeat. 

Drop me a line. 

Ever yours 



[December 7, 1897] 

Thanks. It is admirable admirable. I am not speaking 
of Turgeniev. But surely to render thus the very spirit of 
an incomparable artist one must have more than a spark of 
the sacred fire. The reader does not see the language the 
story is alive as living as when it came from the master's 
hand. This is a great achievement. I have been reading 
with inexpressible delight not the delight of novelty for I 
knew and remembered the stories 1 before but with the 

* The Torrents of Spring and Other Stories, by Ivan Turgenev. Translated 
by Constance Garnett. Heinemann. 1897. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

delight of revelling in that pellucid flaming atmosphere of 
Turgeniev's life which the translator has preserved un- 
stained, unchilled, with the clearness and heat of original in- 
spiration. To me there is something touching like a great 
act of self-sacrifice and devotion in this perfect fidelity to a 
departed breath. The capacity to be so true to what is best 
is a great an incomparable gift. Thanks many times for 
the book. I see you put the date 3rd of Dec. 1 Did you know 
that on that day I went over the rise of forty to travel down- 
wards and a little more lonely than before. Tell your wife 
I am deeply grateful to her for the happy moments with the 
book yesterday. I am trying to write what folly ' 

Ever yours 


Friday, 17th Dec., '97. 

I am awfully sorry. I sat at Lyon's upstairs and near 
the stairs till 4,20 and then had to go, as I could not lose the 
train and had to buy first something for my wife. Thanks 
for all you say. Next time we meet we shall have a talk 
a real talk. Your friendship is so much part of my life 
that I refer all my thoughts to you and to think of you 
consoles me. I trust we will meet soon. Meantime when I 
have about twenty pages written, I shall send them to you 
in MS., for my type operator is as you know off duty. 
Would you undertake to have them typed for me? What 
worries me is that Pawling does not advertise me much. I 

1 The inscription in the presentation copy "J C from E G Dec 3, 1897. 
I see the Nigger is out at last I drink its luck though its life is assured for 
ever. Do you know Maria Niklaevna sent herewith?" 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

daresay he knows what to do. The Star has given me an 
enthused little notice 1 with special heading. I am glad be- 
cause I want Pawling to keep cheerful about me. Why the 
devil does he not send me my free copies? I am ashamed 
to ask any more. The copy for the Cearne shall be for your 
wife. You, having the whole, cannot want a part and 
economy is a great word. 

Ever yours 

JPH. C. 

23 Dec. 97. 

Your letter did my eyes good. I wait anxiously for the 
Morris book. I've an idea of him. He was an artist and a 
man of art. The gibes about Wardour Street I've seen and 
they seemed to me contemptible. 

I post tomorrow a copy of the N. to your wife. You have 
the whole edition so can't want a copy. My best wishes to 
you all no more sincere today than on other days of the 
year but this is supposed to be the proper time for express- 
ing durable sentiments in words which, pronounced, vanish 
and leave no trace except in a heart here and there yours, 
for instance. 

I had a most enthused letter from Quiller Couch. He says 
the book 2 "must" be a success. Is writing about it in the 
Pall Mall Maga: in February. He says "truthful and he- 
roic" that's what he says. He has tested it on an old salt 
and they both conclude that "this is a book." I am pleased 

1 The Nigger of the Narcissus. 

2 The Nigger of the Narcissus. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

with that appreciation. The Daily Chronicle gives special 
article with a leaded heading but you must have seen it as 
that is your household idol isn't it? I am writing the Rf I 
am writing! I am harassed with anxieties but the thing 
comes out! Nothing decisive has happened yet. 

Ever yours 



7th Jan 98 

I've been putting off writing so as to send you the MS. 1 
at the same time. But I meant to have a little more still, 
for you to see, so that you may judge of the way I take hold 
of the actual story. 

I had a most kind appreciative and good letter from your 
wife and more shame to me not to have acknowledged it. 
Present my excuses. I was delighted. I've pasted it in my 
copy of the N: the most prided words of praise and specially 
interesting as disclosing the woman's point of view to look 
at such a rough performance. 

The P. writes he can't anyhow place the Return and I 
give it up. What upset me is that he means to fire off the 
book at once! At the same time Pawling writes me he is 
going to start the Nigger upon the booksellers. He is going 
to "bang it" he says. If the books clash it will be fatal to 
both of them. 

I wrote a temperate letter to the P. telling him that I sold 
him the book for spring publication end March at earliest 
and that it was so agreed plainly in our conversation. 
That I object to publication at once thinking it bad for 
the stones from a business point of view. He must let the 
Reviewers have their say about one thing before throwing 
at them another. Firm and polite. Reminded him of our 
talk. Said I hold him to it. But really I am helpless. . . . 

i The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I think I am going to have the 2nd part of the Rescue 
written by first week in Febry. Meantime things are pretty 
serious with me. Casting about for ways to obtain bread 
and peace the following commercial transaction suggested it- 
self to me. . . . 

As you have done so much for me in fact everything 
with Pawling I submit this plan to you and should you dis- 
like it I shall forbear mentioning it to our friend. I don't 
want to do anything that would look as if I were trying to 
get at Pawling. To my mind it appears a simple commercial 
transaction in which risk and profit are on one side and a 
great convenience on the other. And I think, that the risk 
is so small that to propose the affair is not quite like begging 
on my part. What do you think? Would you add to the 
many acts of brotherly regard and give your thought to this 
and then tell me frankly what you think That I must 
borrow money somewhere is very evident, and no man can 
so well understand the only security I offer than Pawling. 
I don't think he would be annoyed by such a proposal. Do 
you? After all I've given him in Nov er a very fair chance 
to choke me off, which he would not take He believes in 
me? Or is it only the stress of competition? 

At any rate I do not wish to say anything till nearly y 2 
the book is written. (2 parts complete). He writes to me 
in a most friendly manner and seems pleased with the re- 
views. He says that he is going to work the N off on the 
booksellers after the 15th inst when they have finished 
stock-taking. I have confidence in him but don't expect 
much. Still perhaps the Nigger may exist for a few years 
and so not be a bad spec for him. . . . 

... I had 23 reviews. One indifferent (The Standard) 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

and one bad (the Academy). Two or three of a hesitating 
kind in prov. papers. The rest unexpectedly appreciative. 
Did I tell you I had a warm letter from Quiller Couch? He 
is going to say something about the book in Pall Mall Maga- 
zine for Febry. I'll be sending you the R next week. A 
damned pot boiler. But I am quite interested myself tho' 
I write without pleasure. 

Ever yours 


Jessie sends her love and thanks to your wife. She wants 
to know whether Bunny remembers her. We are standing 
by here. 

10. 1. 98 

Your letter most helpful. I shall write to C Graham 

tonight. I am in intimate correspondence with him. He 
writes to me every week once or even twice. He is struck. 
Pawling is (lately) also in a correspondence with him. 
What about I don't know but P did mention this to me in- 
cidentally in his last letter. 

I can speak plainly to C. G. about the Sat R idea. 1 I 
don't know whether he is on very good terms with F. H. 2 
tho 5 . Fact to note: all the fiction (it may be called) the 
S. R publishes is furnished by C. G. alone. 

I don't see why P. should fail to fix serial of Rescue since 
Blackwood was positively ready to accept it. The only ques- 
tion is time. The Rescue would have perhaps to wait a 

1 My idea was that Conrad might place short stories with The Saturday 
Review, and that the latter might senahze longer fiction. 

2 Frank Harris. 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

year or so for a place Scribners would have made offer if 
they had not been full for 98 & 99. And even then if the 
book had been finished they would have made an offer. 
So their letter to P (I've seen it) says. Still this may be a 
too sanguine view. I send you by this post my copy of "N" 
with notices. 

Thanks millions of times. You are a whole mountain of 
bricks to think and scheme for me so. I'm indeed blessed 
in this friendship. 

Ever yours 


Look in the "N" copy back and front. The Lond. Dailies 
are all in front. Are these good selling notices? I don't 
think so. 

After I hear from C. G. I may try Q but this I am more 
reluctant to do. Do write what you think of "N" and Why. 
I study it and there seems now like a flavour of failure 
about it. 

ISth-l. 98 

Infant of male persuasion 1 arrived today and made a 
great row. Everything is going on well here. 

I had a warm letter from Graham. He offers to write 
Harris thinks the idea splendid and so on. I have in 
him a friend at court indeed. I replied telling him to go 

Chesson wrote me a splendid letter about the Nigger. It 
quite cheered me. I haven't written anything of the story 
since I saw you, but I think of it every day. 

1 Borys. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Crane wrote me, also, a penitent letter for not replying 
to mine at Xmas. He says he finds it easier to write about 
me than to rne. Says he has written about me, but where 
he says not. 

Graham said incidentally he would have liked to review 
the Nigger. I told him he may be in time yet. 

Upon the whole the Harris business might come off if 
Graham's letter reached him when he is in good temper. I 
shall let you know without delay how it turns out. 

My kindest regards to your wife. 
Ever yours 


Sinjohn 1 writes me that the N is in great request at his 
club Junior Carlton. Great guns! I wish they would 
buy it. 

Monday evening 
[January 24, 1898.] 

I have your letter and the proofs. 2 You are the best of 
fellows to go through all that disgusting kind of toil for me. 
And my ingratitude is so complete, is so black that I can by 
no means be ashamed of it. This morning for half an hour 
or perhaps a little less I disliked you with the utmost cor- 
diality and sat brooding about some way to do you a serious 
mischief. But now at 5 pm I feel I could bear the sight 
of you without showing any unholy emotion. 

Yes. Seriously. You are right in everything even in 
the suggestion to let the story 3 go as it is. It shall go and 

1 John Galsworthy 

2 Of Tales of Unrest. 

3 The Return. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

be hanged to it. It is bad and in sober truth I can't bear 
the sight of it any more. Let it go. No one will notice it 
particularly, and even if someone arose to solemnly curse it, 
the story and the curse would be forgotten before the end of 
the week. 

My very sincere thanks to Mrs Garnett for saying a good 
word the only good word for the woman. Tell her 
please that as to the story I think it is as false as a sermon 
by an Archbishop. Exactly. Another man goes out than 
the man who came in. T'other fellow is dead. You have 
missed the symbolism of the new gospel (that's what the 
Return is) altogether and you call yourself a critic! The 
only weak point in the story is the slamming of the street 
door at the end. I ought to have stopped on the "not even 
a foot-step on the thick carpet ... as though no sooner 
outside he had died and his body had vanished together with 
his soul" and then in leaded type "He never returned." 

That would have made the newspaper boys sit up. They 
would have wanted to know where he went to, how he got 
downstairs; they would have made guesses at it they 
would have called it realism, naturalism, or new humour. 
I've missed fame by a hair's breadth. And then we could 
have hired some chinaman of letters to explain that the 
whole story is transcendental symbolico-positivist with traces 
of illuminism. I've missed my best chance. Enough fooling. 
It strikes me I am "taking up your valuable time" 

Ever yours 


Jess sends her love to Mrs Garnett and desires me to state 
that the baby is a very fine baby. I disclaim all responsi- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

bility for that statement. Do you really think the volume 1 
will do? 

[February 2, 1898] 

This is a free evening before I go into harness again to 
pull out of the mire, out of the slough of despond that 
damned and muddy romance. 2 I am getting on and it is 
very very bad. Bad enough I sometimes think to make my 

The news I want you to know are 

1st. The Cranes have invited the lot of us man woman 
and child to stay with them ten days from 19th February 
and I've accepted for I feel that if there is no break I will 
go crazy or go out altogether. 

2nd. Harris keeps quiet like a man in hiding. Graham 
blasphemes and curses. 

3rd. I've gone and done it. I write for the press 1 1 1 ! ! 1 
I've sent to the Outlook an unconceivably silly thing about 
A. Daudet. "Words! words! words!" Apparently that's 
what they want. They asked for more. Today I've sent 
another silly thing about Kipling. It took me one and a 
half days to write 1500 words. I can do this kind of thing 
quicker than the muddy romance. Damnl I've lost the 
last shred of belief in myself. I simply dare not send you 
the MS. But ultimately I shall. It is unredeemed trash. 
Are you near enough to Crane to be invaded? My wife shall 
want to show the blessed baby to your wife. I hate babies. 

1 Tales oj Unrest. 

2 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Will you manage to see me while I am there? Do you ob- 
ject to reading 100 pages of my handwriting? It feels like 
a lot of wheels in my head. Withdrawn. 

I am sending you here a bit of the Sat. Rev. Symons criti- 
cising trans: of Annunzio mentions Kipling and myself as 
you can see. 

Frankly is the remark true? 

That the Voynich book 1 sells does not surprise me. Some 
people will take it as an attack on the Popish religion. La 
betise humaine est capable de tout. 

It is bad with me when the thought does not unfold itself 
easily when talking to a friend. I feel I am boring you with 
this letter and yet don't wish to stop. I can't say half the 
things I want to say. 

I want to hear you speak I do. I want to come in con- 
tact with your thought. 

I am again thinking of attacking Pawling. Something 
must be done and that soon. With a book half written I 
can talk better to the man. He is a good fellow. I should 
not like him to curse the day he set eyes on me. If he feels 
so sure of Scribners why not accept my proposal on a busi- 
ness basis: Acquire from me my serial rights. The risk 
will be great enough to prove his good will and friendship 
anyhow. As to asking him to, plainly speaking, pension me 
I don't think I can. Moreover do you think he would care to 
keep a private author on the staff? I won't do anything 
without giving you information in time for a last word of 
advice. For after all you are the serpent and I am a 
bedraggled, silly dove. 

The Gadfly, by E Voynich 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Jess sends her love she intends to write tomorrow to 
your wife. Everybody here is in rude health at which I am 
sorry because of the enormous appetites which is so expen- 
sive and the stores running low at that. 

Ever yours 



[February 10, 1898.] 

Just a word to thank you for your invitation We shall 
certainly call on you but as to inflicting the baby and all 
for more than a day well it would be taking a mean ad- 
vantage of your hospitality. 

I saw Pawling the other day. He is very nice. Thinks 
prospect of Scribners distinctly good. What he wants me 
to do is to get ready as much of the story as I can and send 
it off to Am: by the mail of the 25th inst. so as to reach 
N.Y. while Heinemann is still there. (He left yesterday.) 
I shall therefore write all I can up to the last moment and 
Pawling says he shall get the typing done in one day. Must 
write another chapter and correct, shorten and arrange part 
1st. Then about 45,000 words shall go to the Yanks and 
we shall see. 

Jess sends her thanks and love. She is very keen on 
that visit. You may live yet to regret bitterly your indis- 
cretion in suggesting its possibility. 
In haste 

Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Sunday evening. 

[March 1898.] 

Thanks ever so much for your letter, and more still for 
your promise to come on Friday next. Do come early. 
Could you get here for lunch. There is a train from Fen- 
church Street at 11.35 a.m. 

You have already cheered me up. I did miss you dread- 
fully. I had really a hard time of it and not a soul to 
turn to. 

Jess sends her kind regards and is anxious for you to see 
the baby. The poor girl is a perfect slave to it but think 
she likes it. 

Of course we can put you up and you shall sleep as long 
as you like or the baby likes. 

Could you find out any facts about the sales of the Tales * 
Unwin wrote me the book went off well!!? What could 
have been his object? 

Ever yours 


My friendly regards to Mrs. Garnett. Jess sends her love to 
her and to Bunny. Remember me to that promising youth! 


[March 21, 1898.] 

Well. It isn't so bad as I expected if in every two pages 
only one and a half are too bad for anything. 
To tell you the truth I hate the thing 2 with such great 

1 Tales of Unrest. 

2 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

hatred that I don't want to look at it again. I have read 
your remarks. Gospel truth except where you try to cheer 
me on. I shall certainly go on that is if I can. The best 
about the work is that it is sold. They've got to take it. 
But the thought that such rubbish is produced at the cost of 
positive agony fills me with despair. I have not an atom of 
courage left. 

It was awful good of you to read and annotate. I don't 
know how to thank you. I shall try to do something before 
it appears as a book. Now I haven't the strength nor the 

My kindest regards to Mrs Garnett. Love to Bunny. Is 
his cold better? I haven't been well. 

Ever yours 


My wife sends her love to you all. 

29th March. [1898] 

I am ashamed of myself. I ought to have written to you 
before, but the fact is I have not written anything at all. 
When I received your letter together with part Il.d of R. I 
was in bed this beastly nervous trouble. Since then I've 
been better but have been unable to write. I sit down re- 
ligiously every morning, I sit down for eight hours every day 
and the sitting down is all. In the course of that working 
day of 8 hours I write 3 sentences which I erase before leav- 
ing the table in despair. There's not a single word to send 
you. Not one! And time passes and McClure waits 
not to speak of Eternity for which I don't care a damn. Of 
McClure however I am afraid. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I ask myself sometimes whether I am bewitched, whether 
I am the victim of an evil eye? But there is no "jettatura" 
in England is there? I assure you speaking soberly and 
on my word of honour that sometimes it takes all my 
resolution and power of self control to refrain from butting 
my head against the wall. I want to howl and foam at the 
mouth but I daren't do it for fear of waking that baby and 
alarming my wife. It's no joking matter. After such crises 
of despair I doze for hours still half conscious that there is 
that story I am unable to write. Then I wake up, try again 
and at last go to bed completely done-up. So the days 
pass and nothing is done. At night I sleep. In the morning 
I get up with the horror of that powerlessness I must face 
through a day of vain efforts. 

In these circumstances you imagine I feel not much in- 
clination to write letters. As a matter of fact I had a great 
difficulty in writing the most commonplace note. I seem to 
have lost all sense of style and yet I am haunted, mercilessly 
haunted by the necessity of style. And that story I can't 
write weaves itself into all I see, into all I speak, into all I 
think, into the lines of every book I try to read. I haven't 
read for days. You know how bad it is when one feels one's 
liver, or lungs. Well I feel my brain. I am distinctly con- 
scious of the contents of my head. My story is there in a 
fluid in an evading shape. I can't get hold of it. It is all 
there to bursting, yet I can't get hold of it no more than 
you can grasp a handful of water. 

There! I've told you all and feel better. While I write 
this I am amazed to see that I can write. It looks as though 
the spell were broken but I hasten, I hasten lest it should in 
five minutes or in half an hour be laid again. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I tried to correct Part II. d according to your remarks. I 
did what I could that is I knocked out a good many para- 
graphs. It's so much gained. As to alteration, rewriting 
and so on I haven't attempted it except here and there a 
trifle for the reason I could not think out anything differ- 
ent to what is written. Perhaps when I come to my senses 
I shall be able to do something before the book comes out. 
As to the serial it must go anyhow. I would be thankful to 
be able to write anything, anything, any trash, any rotten 
thing something to earn dishonestly and by false pretences 
the payment promised by a fool. 

That's how things stand today; and tomorrow would be 
more mysterious if it were not so black! I write you a nice 
cheery letter for a good-bye: i don't I, dear old fellow. 
That's how we use our friends. If I hadn't written I would 
have burst. 

Good luck to you and buon' viaggio signore. Think of me 
sometimes. Are you going to Milan? It's 24 years since I 
saw the Cathedral in moonlight. Tempi passati I had 
young eyes then. Don't give all your time to the worship 
of Boticelli. Somebody should explode that superstition. 
But there, you know better. It is good of you to think of 
the boy. He is bigger every day. I would like to make a 
bargeman of him: strong, knowing his business and think- 
ing of nothing. That is the life my dear fellow. Thinking 
of nothing! O' bliss. I had a lunch with Blackwood good 
old smoothbore. Also Cunning: Graham came down to see 
me the day before dining with your father. Has been in bed 
since but writes every second day. Recommend my short 
stories to your friend. Have you seen the Nigger notice in 

1 E G. was about to take a holiday in Italy. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Literature of last week Amazing. Jess sends her best love. 
Vale frater 

Yours ever 

J. C. 

18th May 98 

I've sent off your letter to Cunningham Graham. I've 
looked into it. What you say is just. Your idea of the 
"colonial" series 1 is excellent. 

What shall I say? Things aren't well with me dear friend. 
I grow a little hopeless now. Writing is as difficult as ever. 

Forgive me if I do not come to see you in town. And yet 
I want to see you very much. When you are again abreast 
of your work and can find time run down to see me here. A 
word the day before will do. I am not likely to move from 

My wife sends her kindest regards and hopes we shall see 
you soon. A ridiculously small quantity of the Rescue has 
been done. I am horribly sick of life. 

Ever yours 


[May, 1898.] 

I've sent you today a copy of the Children 2 etc., 3 or 4 
of your own books and that amazing masterpiece Bel- Ami. 

1 The Overseas Library. Fisher Unwin 1899 No I of the Series was, 
The I pane, by R B. Cunninghame Graham 

2 The Children of the Sea. The American edition of The Nigger of the 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

The technique of that work gives to one acute pleasure. It 
is simply enchanting to see how it's done. 

I've sold (I think) the sea things to B. for 35 (13,000 
words). Meldrum thinks there's no doubt but still B must 
see it himself. McClure has been the pink of perfection 
"We will be glad to get as much as we can for you in 
America" and so on. He is anxious to have a book of 
short tales. I think Jim (20,000) Youth (13,000) A seaman 
(5,000) Dynamite (5,000) and another story of say 15,000 
would make a volume for B here and for McC. there. That 
is after serial publication. I broached the subject and they 
seem eager. Have made no conditions but said I would like 
to know what B. would offer. As to McC. I leave it vague 
for the present. 

The Rescue shall not begin till October next. That means 
book form for winter season of 1899. A long time to wait 
and to find it after all a dead frost perhaps. 

I don't feel a bit more hopeful about the writing of 
Rescue than before. It's like a curse. I can't imagine any- 

How do you like C. Graham? 

Jess sends her love to you all 

Ever yours" 


I told C. Graham to get Mrs Garnett's translation of Tur- 
geniev. He admires T. but only read the French rendering. 
My most friendly regards to your wife. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

[May 1898] 

Thanks for your letter. I am glad you like C Graham 

who certainly is unique. 

As to Rescue you are under a 'misapyrehension' as Shaw 
would have said. I intend to write nothing else. I am not 
even going to finish Jim now. Not before Sept<*. The talk 
about short stories has been commenced by those men B 
and Mel. and seeing them willing to discuss the future I gave 
them an idea of what I would do. The fact however re- 
mains that this Rescue makes me miserable frightens me 
and I shall not abandon it even temporarily. I must get on 
with it, and it will destroy my reputation. Sure! 

B has returned yesterday and Meldrum wrote me saying 
I shall hear from him very soon. 

Thanks for your care, for your thought. Alas no one can 
help me. In the matter of R. I have lost all sense of form 
and I can't see images. But what to write I know. I have 
the action only the hand is paralysed when it comes to giv- 
ing expression to that action. If I am too miserable I shall 
groan to you O ! best of men. 

Ever yours 


[June, 1898.] 

Thanks. Do come when you can. 
I send you a few pages of P III. The rest is not typed 

I am awfully behind and though I can work my regu- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

lar . . . I cannot make up for the lost three months. I 
am full of anxiety. Here, I have already had a 100 pounds 
onacct/I And the end is not in sight. Horrid mess I am in. 
I'll tell you everything when you do come. I am living 
in a hell of my own Thanks for the books 

Ever yours 


Jess sends her love to you all. The boy is teething and is in 
a devil of a temper night and day. 

[July 12, 1898] 

This day with you has done me good. I feel much calmer 
and more hopeful about my work. I still think it very bad 
and do not feel that eagerness to show it to you which in the 
past impelled me to forward successive chapters hot from 
the oven for your inspection. However I send two parts 1 
by this morning's post. You shall read and see; I am afraid 
that even as an infamous pot-boiler this book is too unskil- 
fully made. I think I went wrong from the beginning but 
now I am waist deep and there is no going back. 

My kindest regards to Mrs Garnett. My wife sends her 
love. We are well here. 

Ever yours 


3rd Aug. 98 
I am not dead tho' only half alive. Very soon I shall send 

1 The Rescue. 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

you some MS. I am writing hopelessly but still I am writ- 
ing. How I feel I cannot express. Pages accumulate and 
the story stands still. 

I feel suicidal. 

Drop me a line and tell me where and how you are. If 
you could come down it would be an act of real friendship 
and also of charity. 

My kind regards and Jessie's love to your wife. Jess is 
knocked up with the boy's teething performances. He has 
(and she has also) a rough time of it. 

I am afraid there's something wrong with my thinking 
apparatus. I am utterly out of touch with my work and 
I can't get in touch. All is darkness. 

Ever yours 


[August, 1898.] 

I trust you completely and if in your judgment you lean 
towards mercy as it seems to me well this mercy is very 
welcome and perhaps not altogether undeserved. In any 
case it is human for it brings alleviation to a very real 
(though ridiculous) suffering. 

So, the thing is vivid and seen? It is good news to me, 
because, unable to try for something better, higher, I did 
try for the visual effect. And I must trust to that for the 
effect of the whole story from which I cannot evolve any 
meaning. and have given up trying. The book * will be of 
15000 words. That's certain. I am able to write now. I 

1 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

shall be better able after I've seen you I must be getting 
well since, looking back, I see how ill, mentally, I have been 
these last four months The fear of this horror coming back 
to me makes me shiver. As it is it has destroyed already 
the little belief in myself I used to have. I am appalled at 
the absurdity of my situation at the folly of my hopes, at 
the blindness that had kept me up in my gropings. Most ap- 
palled to feel that all the doors behind me are shut and that 
I must remain where I have come blundering in the dark. 

I am looking forward to your coming. I have some plans 
for my manner of life and for work which I shall talk over 
with you. I hope this uncautious frankness won't scare you 
away. Cunng-m Graham is ... Shall tell you when we 
meet. He got into his head to get me the command of a 
steamer or ship and swears he will do it. Meantime he is 
again in Paris about his eyesight. I saw his wife (for twenty 
minutes) the author of the St Theresa book you know. 
Details when we meet. 

Ever yours 


My kindest regards and Jessie's love to your wife. 

29th Sept 1898 

I got back today. Nothing decisive happened in Glas- 
gow, my impression however is that a command will come 
out of it sooner or later most likely later, when the press- 
ing need is past and I had found rny way on shore. I do 
not regret having gone. Mclntyre is a scientific swell who 
talks art, knows artists of all kinds looks after their 
throats, you know. He has given himself a lot of trouble in 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

my interest and means to hammer away at it till I do get 

All day with the ship-owners and in the evening dinner, 
phonograph, X rays, talk about the secret of the Universe 
and the nonexistence of, so called, matter. The secret of 
the universe is in the existence of horizontal waves whose 
varied vibrations are at the bottom of all states of conscious- 
ness. If the waves were vertical the universe would be 
different. This is a truism. But, don't you see, there is 
nothing in the world to prevent the simultaneous existence of 
vertical waves, of waves at any angles; in fact there are 
mathematical reasons for believing that such waves do exist. 
Therefore it follows that two universes may exist in the same 
place and in the same time and not only two universes but 
an infinity of different universes if by universe we mean a 
set of states of consciousness. And, note, all (the universes) 
composed of the same matter, matter, all matter being only 
that thing of inconceivable tenuity through which the various 
vibrations of waves (electricity, heat, sound, light etc.) are 
propagated, thus giving birth to our sensations then emo- 
tions then thought. Is that so? 

These things I said to the Dr while Neil Munro stood in 
front of a Rbntgen machine and on the screen behind we con- 
templated his backbone and his ribs. The rest of that prom- 
ising youth was too diaphanous to be visible. It was so 
said the Doctor and there is no space, time, matter, mind 
as vulgarly understood, there is only the eternal something 
that waves and an eternal force that causes the waves it's 
not much and by the virtue of these two eternities exists 
that Corot and that Whistler in the diningroom upstairs 
(we were in a kind of cellar) and Munro's here writings and 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

your Nigger and Graham's politics and Paderewski's playing 
(in the phonograph) and what more do you want? 

What we wanted (apparently) was more whisky. We 
got it. Mrs Mclntyre went to bed. At one o'clock Munro 
and I went out into the street. We talked. I had read up 
the Lost Pibroch which I do think wonderful in a way We 
foregathered very much indeed and I believe Munro didn't 
get home till five in the morning. He turned up next day 
and burned incense before me, and saw me into the train 
after a dinner at the Art Club (not to speak of the whisky). 

This is the true and faithful report of our gestes in Glesga. 
I returned to the bosom of my family at 1 pm today and 
wrote to Hueffer at once to clinch the matter (there's no 
matter) of Pent Farm (which is only a vain and delusive 
appearance). I hope I may get it. If I don't I shall vanish 
into space (there's no space) and the vibrations that make 
up me, shall go to the making of some other fool. 

I feel less hopeless about things and particularly about 
the damned thing called the Rescue. Tomorrow I write but 
this evening I feel nervy. When I feel sure of Pent Farm 
I shall be comparatively happy. 

If we get fixed there you must come and stay with us a 
good long time when your wife is in France. This is what I 
am looking forward to now. Look ever forward, ever for- 
ward. What a sell! For me to look forward is folly but 
then it's good. Don't you throw cold water on my vision. 
There's no reason why you should. We shall work. By 
heavens and earth we shall work! 

We three send our love to you three. 
Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[October 9, 1898.] 

I am very anxious to see the horrors of the Academy. 
You are a dear old generalizer. I fancy you've generalized 
me into a region of such glory that no mortal henceforth will 
succeed in finding me in my work. However this letter is 
not written for the purpose of abusing you but strange as it 
may seem on business which may concern you. 

I went on Friday to Pent Farm. On my way I called on 
Robert McClure whom I had not seen since the letter and 
telegram I showed you as you may remember. He in- 
sisted upon feeding me and, while we chewed, the conversa- 
tion which turned upon famous criminals of history by some 
strange association of ideas reached your name. Robert 
must have heard of you from Pawling? or rather about you 
and wanted to know more. Then by gradations too sub- 
tle to record he came out plainly with his desire to make your 
acquaintance. He means something. I am pretty sure he 
has some definite idea in his mind What it is I don't know 
but I encouraged it all I could for this reason that any- 
thing I may have said not engaging you by any possibility 
yet gave him the notion that you were open at any rate to 
listen to any proposal he might make. I wish I may be shot 
if I don't think he wants to carry you off from Unwin. 
However that may be he asked me whether I could bring 
you two together dinner or something. I told him it could 
be done almost any Thursday or Friday in the week. I don't 
suppose you can have any objection to meeting McClure 
a very decent little chap. You know how well he behaves 
to me. He is quite in earnest. At parting he told me "I 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

have a matter of business to bring before him" or words to 
that effect, the word business being pronounced. Upon that 
I said I would arrange the thing. As my train went off he 
shouted "don't forget" about Garnett? Now when, how, 
do you wish it to come off? If you do wish? I think there's 
no possible harm. Could we manage a lunch on next Friday 
or Friday after next. I want to officiate and it would be 
more convenient for me to make it a lunch instead of a 
dinner because of the wretched trains. Drop me a line and 
then I shall know what to say to McClure. 

I like Pent. It will do. We're going there for the 26th 
Ford tells me you don't like the place. I hope tho' you 
like me well enough to come and stay. I fancy I'll get on 
there all right. I always hope. Oh well. 
Ever yours 


[October 12, 1898.] 

It 1 is magnificent. I can't conceive how you could find 
in me the source of such vibrating, tender and illuminating 
utterance. I can't conceive but I can accept. It is absorb- 
ingly interesting to me not as an appreciation of myself but 
as disclosure of you. And I appear to myself wrapped in the 
glamour of your intuition not of what has been done, but 
of what should be done, what should be tried for, what 
should be desired what cannot be attained. 

I send back the proof without more words because I feel 
I can't arrange them into an artistic expression of grati- 

i Article m The Academy October 18, 1898, by E G , entitled Mr. Joseph 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

tude not for what you say but for what you feel. But I am 
very proud of what you feel and also a little humiliated. 
There is likewise a grim delight in the thought that now you 
have spoken you can't take it back never never. 

Ever yours 


I wire to McClure and shall write you tonight where and 
when we meet. 


[October 12, 1898.] 

I propose that little (Hotel d'ltalie?) shop at the back 
of Palace Music Hall where they have tolerable Asti. The 
time to be 1.15 p m. Say first floor or still better private 
room. I know they've got one. You shall be there first no 
doubt and if so pray use your judgment. If the public room 
on 1st floor is crowded retain the cabinet if not, retain a 
table good for three Or if you think privacy desirable you 
had better retain the cabinet in any case. I shall bring Mac 
along which probably may detain me a little. If place does 
not commend itself to you write at once proposing something 
more suitable. There is however no need to be ceremonious 
with Mac and the food if I remember rightly is tolerable in 
that gargotte. We mustn't pamper editors (this is a joke). 
I've destroyed all I did write last month but my brain feels 
alive and my heart is not afraid now. Permanent state? 
who knows. Always hope. 

Write p.c. to say you got this all right. 
Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[November 7, 1898.] 

Did you think I had died? We are here over a week now 
and the place is a success. I reckon Ford told you, I reckon 
you disapprove. "I rebel 1 I said I would rebel." (d'you 
know the quotation) .* 

I send you here Henley's letter on the matter. I feel hope- 
ful about my own work. Completely changed. When do you 
come here. When? Both of you with Bunny. Or you alone 
to begin with. I feel orphaned. Are you in Constple? 2 

Ever yours 

Love from us all. 

Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 

[December 18, 1898.] 

I was glad to see thy fist. The Crane thing 3 is just- 
precisely just a ray flashed in and showing all there is. 

Jess' and my love to you, and best wishes and through 
to all yours please when you write. 

Before Mrs Garnett comes back you must come and see 
me us. 
I've been writing not so badly. 

1 Ivan Turgenev, Father and Children, 

2 A Constantinople project which came to nothing. 

3 Article by Edward Garnett in The Academy, December 17, 18Q8 Mr 
Stephen Crane. An ApprecwtTon. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Now I am at a short story for B'wood which I must get 
out for the sake of the shekels. 
Then again at the R. 

Come soon. I've read the play. 1 There's something to 
say about it but viva voce when we meet. 

Ever yours 


I don't send you type of R because McC. is always anxious 
to get it back at once. And there's nothing to boast of. 
Galsworthy is awfully anxious to make your acquaintance. 

! A Christmas Play for Children, by E G. 



Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


13 Jan 99. 

Have you seen it I It! The Academy. 1 When I opened 
the letter I thought it was a mistake. But it was too true, 
alas. I've lost the last ounce of respect for my art. I am 
lost gone gone done for for the consideration of SO gs. 

I suppose Lucas worked like a horse to get this awful, 
awful job through. I suppose you worked too or no I 
won't suppose. Where do you chaps expect to go to when 
you die? 

Ah if I could only write! If I could write, write, write! 
But I cannot. No 50 gs will help me to that. However I 
am turning over some rotten stuff 2 for B'wood's 1000th 
Mr. Been Asked to! 

Honours will never cease. 'House' wrote autograph! Ah 
will you says I. Thereupon I cram them with rubbish. As 
soon as I turn out the last line I shall come to town for a 
couple of days Must see you. Also others. Let me know 
where you perch. Where you hop too. 

What news of your wife and boy? 

Ever yours 


1 Conrad had been "crowned" by The Academy and awarded fifty guineas. 

2 Heart of Darkness 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

[February, 1899.] 


I saw Shorter who didn't eat me. I can't appear in the 
Hid Lond News not so much because I am not ready but 
because McClure told Shorter that the story shall be 60- 
65,000 words long only and Shorter had calculated upon 
that for the News. (14 weeks instalments). 

How McClure made that mistake I can't imagine, as the 
synopsis stated distinctly minimum of 90,000 words; prob- 
ably 110,000. 

I set Shorter right on that point. He didn't seem sorry 
to get a lot of copy for his money but said I must go into the 
Eng 111: Magazine. Hopes the News will get some other 
work of mine by and by. Ran out after me to ask whether 
I had a short story by me to appear in News at once. Told 
him hadn't. Salaams. Then ran out again to ask whether 
I had a friend who would write something about me in the 
Eng. III. Mag. I said I hadn't a friend but had a good enemy 
Edward Garnett who perhaps could be induced to commit 
such an atrocity. He hastened to inform me he knew your 
Father. I had the baseness to give him your address and 
escaped without a particle of self respect from that horrid 
den. So you know what to expect. 

Are you angry with me? When I know how you feel 
about this my mind shall be at ease. It's a pity, in a sense, 
I missed the News. On the other hand it's fortunate the 
thing is arranged. I shall drive ahead all the same, and 
probably invade you if you still will have me after what 
I've done. I fancy Shorter wants to see whether my story 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

can't give a fillip to the circulation of the wretched Maga- 
zine. If so he prepares a bitter disappointment for himself. 
Thanks for your visit my dear dear fellow. Water in the 
desert could not have been more welcome. 
Heaps of blessings on your head 
Ever yours 


Since I wrote this I got this letter from Shorter. What a 
damned barnacle! 

Good Friday 
in sorrow and tribulation 


What do you think of me? Think I love you though I am 
a dumb dog or no better than a whining dog. There's not a 
spark left in me. I am overwhelmed and utterly flattened. 
Hueffers are gone yesterday. So is McClure who came for 
the night. A decent little chap I say if I got to die for it! 

Is trying to ram the Rescue into the Atlantic Monthly but 
the R is not finished yet not yet not yet. 

"I'll be your banner" says little McClure this is better 
than a kick on the shin bone I guess; but the spirit suffers. 

Give our love to your restored household. Restored to 
you I mean. H. said you reproached him for his fleeting 
sojourn here. It is not conclusive evidence but if so learn 
that our friends cannot save us from the effects of our own 

Are you angry with me? 

If so learn that I am so hardened by adversity that your 
anger glides off me as a dart glances off a turtle's back, and 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I still continue to radiate affection on you my affection 
which is not so offensive as Wells' Martian's Heat-ray but 
nearly as warm. 

It won't set the Thames on fire tho'. Nothing of mine 
will. I think of you with gentle melancholy as of one who 
has put his money on the wrong horse. I am literally lame. 
Gout. Brought on by by by agitation, exasperation, 
botheration you know; those things you laugh at and bite 
your thumbs at 0' Lordl And I write! I write! I 
write! Certainly. Write quick. Not quick enough to make 
up for the frightful leeway. But I write. 

And a propos of writing. Have you seen p III of H o/ 
D?^ My dear fellow I daren't send you my MS. I feel it 
would worry you. I feel my existence alone worries you 
enough. This is not conceit; quite the contrary. 

But drop me word of p III. 

Fact is I am not worthy to take up your thought. The 
more I write the less substance do I see in my work. The 
scales are falling off my eyes. It is tolerably awful. And 
I face it, I face it but the fright is growing on me. My 
fortitude is shaken by the view of the monster. It does not 
move; its eyes are baleful; it is as still as death itself 
and it will devour me. Its stare has eaten into my soul al- 
ready deep, deep. I am alone with it in a chasm with per- 
pendicular sides of black basalt. Never were sides so per- 
pendicular and smooth, and high. Above, your anxious 
head against a bit of sky peers down in vain in vain. 
There's no rope long enough for that rescue. 

1 Heart of Darkness, Black wood's Magazine, February, March and April, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Why didn't you come? I expected you and fate has sent 
Hueffer. Let this be written on my tombstone. 

Ever yours 


[June, 1899 ] 

This is the sort of rot I am writing now. Frankly it is not 
worth troubling about but still I send you this the first 
part of a B'wood story in two parts. 1 

Ever yours 


Send it back at your leisure. Of course you can see it is not 
corrected in any way. 

Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


16th Sept. 99. 

To drop me a line was a generous action. I had not the 
courage to write; I feel to you like a son who has gone 
wrong and what with shame and recklessness remains silent 
and yet nourishes the hope of rehabilitation and keeps 
his eyes fixed steadily on some distant day of pardon and 

It will come, it will come and whether the prodigal comes 
to you or you come to the prodigal some poor innocent calf 
is sure to suffer. 

I had nothing to write or else too much so much that 

1 Lord Jim. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

no pieces of paper seemed long enough, no ink-well of ade- 
quate depth! And yet when some day we sob together at 
last over the remains of the obese heifer of forgiveness half 
a dozen words or a judicious wink of the eye shall make 
everything clear everything clear! 

I wouldn't trust C. Graham's literary judgment I 
wouldn't not much. I am writing it is true but this is 
only piling crime upon crime : every line is odious like a bad 
action. I mean odious to me because I still have some 
pretences to the possession of a conscience though my mor- 
ality is gone to the dogs. I am like a man who has lost his 
gods. My efforts seem unrelated to anything in heaven and 
everything under heaven is impalpable to the touch like 
shapes of mist. Do you see how easy writing must be under 
such conditions? Do you see? 

Even writing to a friend to a person one has heard, 
touched, drank with, quarrelled with does not give me a 
sense of reality. All is illusion the words written, the mind 
at which they are aimed, the truth they are intended to ex- 
press, the hands that will hold the paper, the eyes that will 
glance at the lines. Every image floats vaguely in a sea of 
doubt and the doubt itself is lost in an unexplored universe 
of incertitudes. 

I've written. Are you any the wiser? Are you disposed 
to forgive? 

I end here because I must catch the post. 
Ever yours 


Jessie's love. We are well enough considering. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 

Near Hythe 
26th Get" 99 


Thanks for your letter. If I don't send proofs or type it is 
because there is, alas, so little to send and what there is, is 
not worthy. I feel it bad; and, unless I am hopelessly mor- 
bid, I can not be altogether wrong. So much I am conceited; 
I fancy that I know a good thing when I see it. 

I am weary of the difficulty of it. The game is not worth 
the candle; of course there is no question of throwing up the 
hand. It must be played out to the end but it is the other 
men who hold the trumps and the prospect is not inspiring. 

I don't know what to say to your projected dedication. 1 
Not that I feel averse to taking the utmost from your affec- 
tion. Generous as you are you can never give me enough; 
for of the proofs such proofs of such friendship one is in- 
satiable as of the most real form of happiness. You've made 
me happy, and sad, and frightened, you've startled my secret 
dream as the report of the first gun may interrupt a dream 
of battle. Vous avez remul le plus profond de mon ame. 
Never have I felt less worthy as now when my name is to 
be borne on the stream of time with your wife's achievement 
and your criticism. Is it possible that I should deserve to 
stand so close to the great creator, to his great interpreter 
and to the man who, in this country, alone had penetrated 
the Master. But you have said it and I can only bow my 
head before this fabulous good fortune. 

e translation of Turgenev's A Desperate Character, Heinemann. 1899, 
was dedicated to Joseph Conrad. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

When you send me that volume ask your dear wife to 
write her name in it for me. I almost think I understand 
better than any one all the perfection of her finished task. 
That is why I said Interpreter and not translator. She is in 
that work what a great musician is to a great composer 
with something more, something greater. It is as if the In- 
terpreter had looked into the very mind of the Master and 
had a share in his inspiration. I had letters about your 
Nietzsche from all sorts of people. You have stirred some 
brains! I don't think there's anything wrong with your 
wits. Galsworthy brought the Outlook the other day and 
began to read aloud from your Ibsen. He read a couple of 
pars: and asked Now who's this? I said Garnett or the 
devil. At that time I had no idea you wrote for that paper 
with a horrid caste-mark on its forepage. I am taking it in 
now. You never even tell me what you are doing. As to 
Jim. 1 I entreat you: Wait till the 2d inst. mnt comes out (in 
a few days) and I shall send you the two together. The first 
is too bad to stand alone. The fifth (and last inst) is not 
written yet and what it will be God only knows. 

When! Oh when! shall we speak face to face? 

The news about the Patron is grave. 2 Is it grave? Sure- 
ly you you! are wanted in too many places to bother much 
about the placing of your wits. I keep mum but let me 
know the finality of this thusness. 

Ever yours 


Jessie sends her love. We are in fair health. 

1 Lord Jim 

2 Mr Fisher Unwin dispensed with my services as his literary adviser at 
the end of 1899. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 

Stanford, Near Hythe 
9th Nov 99 


I've written the required letter but it can't go till tomorrow 
morning's post. I've also written privately to Mel.d pre- 
paring him for Mrs. Blake's visit 1 probably on Monday; 
and in a note to the lady herself I advise her to call on Mon- 

My dear fellow I don't know how to thank you for all you 
say in your critical letter anent Lord Jim. Of the faults you 
point out I've been aware all along, but that the thing had 
any good at all in it I vow and declare I was ignorant. The 
faults are mine and the good (since you say there is some 
good in it) comes from devil knows whence. Well! As long 
as it is there. 

Turg.v in the Academy is rather so so. Who wrote it? 
And who are your wife's associates?!! She had not any . . . 
The people who wrote me about your Nietzsche were Sauter 
(a German painter) and Mrs Helen Sanderson a Scotch girl 
of great intelligence. She was immensely struck. Wells 
also said something appreciative at the time. The pub. 5 

are fools. BVood is fussing now over a fraud called . 

Asked me to give him my opinion of that unspeakable im- 
postor's story in the ... Maga. And I did give it to 
him too. I said it was too contemptible to be thought about 
and moreover that it was stolen from Kipling as to matter 
and imitated from Munro as to style. I couldn't keep my 
temper. Ever yours 


1 A lady who had written sketches of Rhodesian life and was in straits in 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

13 Nov 99 

I am delighted to hear of the critical book and more in- 
terested than I can say. At last! At last! I am sure it 
will attract attention if not extract shekels. Only you must 
not have me there. An article in a weekly that's dead as 
soon as it's born does not matter but in a book you must 
not give anybody an opening to impugn your judgment. No! 
Not even to serve me who am your spoiled child. Fve no 
place in literature though I may have one in your affection. 
Be original be awakening as much as you like, but be also 
guarded as to what material you use to develop upon your 
theory and practice of criticism. Deal with people that are 
unquestionable in this your first book of criticism. Reject 
dubious personalities (like me) even if in your conscience 
they are deserving. Afterwards! Well! You'll do what 
you like and may even cram me down their narrow gullets. 
But now think only of E. G. and of E. G. alone of what 
E.G. stands for to us who have heard him, who know him 
and of what he may stand for even for the wise man in the 
street, who is instructed, shocked and amused by innumer- 
able swarms of geniuses. 

I shall send Bridges this week; also the titles of all your 
books now staying with me. Your question about the Res- 
cue sent a shiver down my back. Jim's dragging his slow 
length along apres nous verrons. Annihilation perhaps. I 
repeat: Nous verrons! 

Love from us to you both 

Ever yours 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 
Near Hythe 


[November 19, 1899.] 

I send you the vol of Bridges. It is not yours. I find I 
can't lay my hands on it so I got a paper copy meanwhile. 
I shall send you titles of others in a day or so. 
I also send you 2d inst of Jim which is too wretched for 
words. It would have been less shocking if it had included 
another chapter. 

Meldrum wrote saying he shall report on Mrs Blake's 
work to old B'wood forthwith. I hope it will come off. 
Ever yours 


Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


Friday evening [November 24, 1899.] 

The letter to McClure goes by tomorrow morning's post. 
I play the honest broker to the best of my ability. I've said 
all you wished me to say; and as I remember perfectly that 
you did rather 'choke off poor little Robert at the time I 
suggested that at a hint from me you would approach 
him on the matter. (At the same time I send him your 
address) . 

Robert is perfectly harmless; knows nothing of literature; 
is proud of the success of the firm but is not low minded. 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Simply ignorant. Of Doubleday the world had heard in con- 
nection with Kipling's pneumonia. That's enough! 

S. S. McClure is a sort of Holy Terror I hear but why 
he is terrible I'm damned if I know. Sort of Silas Lapham 
I understand. I dare say he is no more beastly than any 
other animal of that sort nor more intelligent; nor more 
stupid. He has made the business. Personally Pve found 
Robert very nice, extremely decent not more so than 
Pawling and rather deferential. And this is all I know of 

You are a dear good old critic you are ! You've a way of 
saying things that would make an old sign-post take to writ- 
ing. You put soul and spunk into me you, so to speak, 
bamboozle me into going on and going on and going on. 
You can detect the shape of a mangled idea and the shadow 
of an intention in the worst of one's work and you make 
the best of it. You would almost persuade me that I exist. 

Love to you all from us all 

Ever yours 


Pent Farm 

Near Hythe 

2 Dec 99 

I was on the point of sitting down to write to you yester- 
day when a despairing note from poor Hope informed me 
that his eldest boy Jack was drowned. Jess and I started 
at once to see them. We spent two hours in Stanford and 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

returned home feeling horribly wretched and tired. There's 
no doubt the poor boy had been murdered on the marshes 
not far from the place where you and I looked upon the 
river. They found him in the creek. 

I am too upset to be able to write you a connected letter. 
I wanted to thank you for the volume 1 you've sent me. The 
preface is jolly good let me tell you. It is wonderfully good 
and true. Thanks to you both I want to catch the post. 

Ever yours 


*A Desperate Character, by Ivan Turgenev. Translated by Constance 
Garnett. Heinemann. 1899. 



Pent Farm 
Near Hythe 

15 Jan 1900 

Thanks for the vol of Turg: 1 I haven't yet looked In. 
I shall send you the B 'woods 2 only I am trying to collect 
all the stray proofs so as to send you a lot of copy, since you 
won't wait till it is finished. 
Our love to you three 

Ever yours 


Tell me what are your plans? Ford has been talking about 
some weekly paper. Is there anything in it. 

Times are deucedly hard here. But it's no use talking. 
This imbecile war has just about done for me. 

Pent Farm, 
20 Jan. 1900. 

You make my head whirl when you write like this. What 
a letter for a poor devil to get! You've knocked my even- 

1 The Jew, Etc., by Ivan Turgenev. Translated by Constance Garnett. 
Heinemann 1900 

2 Conrad's letter is a reply to an inscription in the presentation copy of 
The Jew from E G " 'An Unhappy Girl' is the most remarkable in psy- 
chology. 'Enough' is very like the philosophy of your novels Send me the 
Dec & Jan. Blackwood, please. I return you the Nov. Number. Ever yours 3 
E. G." 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ing's work on the head; I found it impossible to write any 
copy. You frighten me; because were I to let you take me 
up on these heights by your appreciation the fall before my 
own conscience's smile would be so heavy as to break every 
bone in my body. And yet what, oh' what would become of 
me if it were not for your brave words that warm like fire 
and feed like bread and make me drunk like wine 1 

No. I didn't know anything about Jim; 1 and all I know 
now is that it pleases you; and I declare as true as there are 
blind, deaf-mute gods sitting above us (who are so clear- 
eyed; eloquent and sharp of hearing) I declare it is enough 
for me; for if you think that because I've not been sending 
you my MS., your opinion has ceased to be a living factor in 
my individual and artistic existence, you are lamentably 
mistaken. I was simply afraid. And I am afraid still. You 
see the work fragmentarily; and the blessed thing is so de- 
fective that even that far within it you cannot possibly 
(with all your penetration and sympathy) you cannot pos- 
sibly know where I tend and how I shall conclude this most 
inconclusive attempt. You don't; and the truth is that it 
is not my depth but my shallowness which makes me so in- 
scrutable (?). Thus (I go cold to think) the surprize re- 
served for you will be in the nature of a chair withdrawn 
from under one; something like a bad joke it will strike 
you no doubt. Bad and vile. Now had you taken the whole 
thing the fall would not have been so heavy, I imagine. 

There has been a John Kochanowski a 15th century poet 
who wrote a trenody amongst other things and really our 
literature dates from Mm. Of course his name is no more 

1 Lord Jtm. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

like mine than Brown is like Robinson. His name is de- 
rived from the word which in Polish means love while mine 
derives from the word root. 

Then in the thirties of the 19th century (or forties) there 
was a novelist of about say Trollope's rank (but not so 
good in his way) named Joseph Korzeniowski. That is also 
my name but the family is different, my full name being 
Joseph Theodor Konrad Natecz Korzeniowski, the under- 
lined word being the appelation of our trade mark as thus: 


^,.=Natecz without which none are genuine. As a 

matter of fact I and Alfred Borys Konrad Korzeniowski are 
the only two of that particular brand of Korzeniowski in 
existence. There are other families whose arms are like 
mine but whose names are altogether different. This is a 
distinct bond though not a relationship in any sense. It 
may indicate a common origin lost in the mists of ages? It 
was always recognized as a title to good offices from a, pow- 
erful family towards a humbler one and so on. 

My paternal grandfather Theodor N. Korzeniowski served 
in the cavalry. Decorated with the cross of 'Virtuti Mili- 
tari' (a plain white enamel with a green wreath of laurel 
and these words in the centre) something in the nature of 
V.C. Attained the rank of captain in 1830 when the Russo- 
Polish war occurred after which the so-called Polish Army 
ceased to exist. Two wounds. Retired to a little hereditary 
estate adjoining the extensive possessions of the family of 
Sobdnski (they are in the Almanach de Gotha) great friends 
and I fancy distant relations. Administered the territorial 
fortune of Madame Melanie Sobariska. Wrote a tragedy in 
5 Acts, Verse, privately printed, and so extremely dull that 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

no one was ever known to have read it through. I know I 
couldn't notwithstanding my family pride and the general 
piety of my disposition. 

My other grandfather Joseph Bobrowski landowner, man 
of wit, owner of a famous stud of Steppe horses, lived and 
died on his estate of Oratow; popular, greatly lamented. 
Never wrote but letters (and very few of these) and a large 
number of promissory notes dedicated to various Jews. Left 
a large family of sons and one daughter Eva my mother. 
There was an extraordinary Sister-Cult in that family from 
which I profited when left an orphan at the age of ten. And 
my mother certainly was no ordinary woman. Her corre- 
spondence with my father and with her brothers which in 
the year 1890 I have read and afterwards destroyed was a 
revelation to me; I shall never forget my delight, admiration 
and unutterable regret at my loss, (before I could appreciate 
her) which only then I fully understood. One of her broth- 
ers Thaddeus to whom I stand more in the relation of a son 
than of a nephew was a man of powerful intelligence and 
great force of character and possessed an enormous influence 
in the Three Provinces (Ukraine, Volhynia and Podolia). 
A most distinguished man. Another Stephen was in 1862 
chief of the Polish Revolutionary Committee in Warsaw, 
and died assassinated soon after the Polish outbreak of 

None of the members of the many families to which these 
two are related was a literary man; all made sacrifices of 
fortune, liberty and life for the cause in which they be- 
lieved; and very few had any illusions as to its success. 

My father Apollonius N. Korzeniowski. Educated in the 


Evelina Korzemowski 
Conrad's Mother 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

University of St. Petersburg. Department of Oriental 
Studies and Philology. No degree. Debts. Social successes 
and any amount of "Bonnes fortunes." Poet. Married in 
1855. Came to Warsaw in 1860. Arrested in 1862 and 
after 10 months detention in the Citadel condemned to de- 
portation into Russia. First in Archangel, then hi Tsheris- 
gow. My mother died in exile. My father liberated in '67 
on the representation of Prince Gallitzin that he was no 
longer dangerous. He was dying. Comedy in 5 acts in 
verse of modern life (date about 1854). Trans: V. Hugo, 
Legende du Si&cles. Travailleurs de la Mer. Hernani. Alf. 
de Vigny Chatterton. Drama. (Verse) Shakespeare. Much 
Ado About Nothing. As you like it. Two Gentlemen of 
Verona. Comedy of Errors. Othello. (These I remember 
seeing in proofs when sent for his correction. There may 
have been others. Some of these I've read when I could be 
no more than eight or nine years old.) After his liberation, 
in Cracow (Austrian Poland), one of the Editorial Commit- 
tee of a Newspaper (Kraj) then founded if I remember 
rightly by Prince Leo Sapieha (?) but too ill to continue 
actively in the direction. 

A man of great sensibilities; of exalted and dreamy tem- 
perament; with a terrible gift of irony and of gloomy dis- 
position; withal of strong religious feeling degenerating 
after the loss of his wife into mysticism touched with despair. 
His aspect was distinguished; his conversation very fascinat- 
ing; his face in repose sombre lighted all over when he 
smiled. I remember him well. For the last two years of 
his life I lived alone with him but why go on? 

There were piles of MS. Dramas, verse, prose, burnt 
after his death according to his last will. A friend of his a 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Polish critic of distinction wrote a pamphlet entitled "A 
little known Poet" after his death. And so finis. 

Have I written enough? I certainly did not mean to 
write so much, when I began. I always intended to write 
something of the kind for Borys, so as to save all this from 
the abyss a few years longer. And probably he wouldn't 
care. What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba. Tempi pas- 
sati, brother 1 Tempi passati. Let them go. 
Ever yours, 


The Pent 
26 March 1900 

All my bits of luck come through you! You must be in- 
deed as Jess says the best of men. I consider the accept: 
of the Inhiors 1 a distinct bit of luck. Jove! What a lark' 

I set myself to look upon the thing as a sort of skit upon 
the sort of political (?!) novel, fools of the N. S. sort do 
write. This in my heart of hearts. And poor H was dead 
in earnest! Oh Lord. How he worked! There is not a 
chapter I haven't made him write twice most of them three 
times over. 

This is collaboration if you like! Joking apart the ex- 
penditure of nervous fluid was immense. There were mo- 
ments when I cursed the day I was born and dared not look 
up at the light of day I had to live through with this thing 
on my mind. H has been as patient as no angel had ever 
been. I've been fiendish. I've been rude to him; if I've 

1 The Inheritors, by Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Hueff er (Hememann 
1901), which I had recommended Hememann to publish. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

not called him names I've implied in my remarks and the 
course of our discussions the most opprobrious epithets. He 
wouldn't recognize them. Ton my word it was touching. 
And there's no doubt that in the course of that agony I have 
been ready to weep more than once. Yet not for him. Not 
for him. 

You'll have to burn this letter but I shall say no more. 
Some day we shall meet and then ! 

I am still at Jim. I've been beastly ill in Feb.ry Jessie is 
hunting all over the house for the Fefry No to send you. I 
am old and sick and in debt but lately I've found I can still 
write it comes! it comes! and I am young and healthy 
and rich. 

The question is will I ever write anything? 

I've been cutting and slashing whole parts out of Jim. 
How bad oh! HOW BAD' Why is it that a weary heaven 
has not pulverised me with a wee little teeny weeny thunder- 

Love from us to you three. I shall write again when I 
get time to gasp once or twice. 

Ever yours 


I suppose you've scornfully detected whole slabs of my 
own precious writing in that precious novel? 1 

1 The Inheritors. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 

Stanford, Near Hythe 

[November, 1900.] 

What Meldrum says is this: 

He is most anxious to see (what he calls) your essay in 
criticism 1 but lately he was greatly annoyed by having one 
or two things he sent to E'gh, refused. He thinks it deplor- 
able to ask a man for stuff, then have it fired back after 3 
weeks, or more. 

Consequently were you to send anything he would be de- 
lighted and do all he can with alacrity but says he I am un- 
willing to ask E. G. in so many words and then hear that his 
work has been refused. 

As to George B'wood from few words I've exchanged 
with him I fancy the idea has a fearful fascination for him. 
They step delicately round you as though you were a box of 
dynamite they would like to pick up but daren't. It's most 
impressive. If I talk much more about you with that lot 
I'll get frightened myself. It seems to me you do not realize 
this extraordinary prestige you possess the prestige of a 
quiescent bomb about whose deadly quality there is no doubt 
whatever. All these priests of imbecile idols seem to think 
that you may go off if given a chance and shatter their 
commodious temple to pieces. 

May you do so! To me you are not a bomb you are a 
righteous club which I imagine forever suspended over my 

1 The Contemporary Critic. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

head. And I don't think you realize either how much this 
conception of E, G. influences the course of my existence. 

If you've written to me about L 7 1 keep back your letter 
for a week. I am in a state bordering on distraction. Most 
unhappy about it and yet idiotically exalted. I want to 
settle down before I hear what you have to say for to me it 
is your voice that really matters. 

Ever yours 


Pent Farm, 
Stanford, Near Hythe, 


12. Nov. 1900. 

You are great and good. 

Yes! you've put your finger on the plague spot. The di- 
vision of the book 2 into two parts which is the basis of your 
criticism demonstrates to me once more your amazing in- 
sight; and your analysis of the effect of the book puts into 
words precisely and suggestively the dumb thoughts of every 
reader and my own. 

Such is indeed the effect of the book; the effect which 
you can name and others can only feel. I admit I stood for 
a great triumph and I have only succeeded in giving myself 
utterly away. Nobody'll see it, but you have detected me 
falling back into my lump of clay I had been lugging up 
from the bottom of the pit, with the idea of breathing big 
life into it. And all I have done was to let it fall with a 
silly crash. 

1 Lord Jim, 

2 Lord Jtm. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

For what is fundamentally wrong with the book the 
cause and the effect is want of power. I do not mean the 
'power' of reviewers' jargon. I mean the want of illuminat- 
ing imagination. I wanted to obtain a sort of lurid light out 
(of) the very events. You know what I have done alas! 
I haven't been strong enough to breathe the right sort of life 
into my clay the revealing life. 

I've been satanically ambitious, but there's nothing of a 
devil in me, worse luck. The Outcast is a heap of sand, the 
Nigger a splash of water, Jim a lump of clay. A stone, I sup- 
pose will be my next gift to the impatient mankind before I 
get drowned in mud to which even my supreme struggles 
won't give a simulacrum of life. Poor mankind! Drop a 
tear for it but look how infinitely more pathetic I am! 
This pathos is a kind of triumph no criticism can touch. 
Like the philosopher who crowed at the Universe I shall 
know when I am utterly squashed. This time I am only 
very bruised, very sore, very humiliated. 

This is the effect of the book upon me; the intimate and 
personal effect. Humiliation. Not extinction. Not yet. 
All of you stand by me so nobly that I must still exist. 
There is You, always, and never dismayed I had an amaz- 
ing note from Lucas. Amazing ! This morning a letter came 
from Henry James. Ah! You rub in the balm till every 
sore smarts therefore I exist. The time will come when 
you shall get tired of tending true and most well-intentioned 
sham and then the end'll come too. 

But keep up! keep up! Let me exhort you earnestly to 
keep up! as long as you can. 

I send you the H J. letter. A draught from the Fountain 
of Eternal Youth. Wouldn't you think a boy had written it? 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Such enthusiasm! Wonderful old man, with his record of 
wonderful work! It is, I believe, seriously intended (the 
latter) as confidential. And to you alone I show it keep 
Us secret for us both. No more now. I've read Petersburg 
tales 1 Phew! That is something! That is many things 
and the only thing it is written ! It is. That work is gen- 
uine, undeniable, constructed and inhabited. It hath foun- 
dation and life. I hope the writer will deign to recognize 
my most fraternal welcome! 

Yours ever 

J. C. 

PS Pray send the James autograph back registered. Our 
great love to you three. We must meet soon. 

1 Petersburg Tales, by Ohve Garnett Hememann 1900. 



Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


3rd July, 1901. 

Am I to understand that, like the hero of the Inheritors, 
you have fallen amongst the Dimensionists and are about to 
become an interviewer? Then I must be the Great Callan 
who, Pawling says, must be meant for Crockett. And so 
be it. 

But to see you, and to see you here, I am ready to turn 
myself into a Callan. I believe Fox paid Granger's expenses, 
so Pawling can't do less than buy you a return ticket for 
Sandling. But come under pretence and whatever cost and 
help me to inherit the earth before I die. There is no time 
to lose. 

I feel as if I were asking you to come and see the last of 
me. A sort of invincible oppression bears me down and 
whether it is the mind or the body that is suffering it is lit- 
erally all one. It is a bad sign and a great sadness. 

Ever yours 


PS I came up to London on Monday, calculating I would 
see you at the oar in your galley. Our love to you three 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

The Pent 
4th August 1901 

We have been very much shocked at the awful catastrophe 
of which I've read without ever dreaming it touched your 
wife so close. 1 Pray assure her of our most affectionate 
sympathy. I would like exceedingly to see you both and 
may try to come over but things are damnably bad with me 
anyhow. Your stuff 2 is absolutely right, interesting, first 
rate, written judiciously and excellently well in tone with 
Maga in her unpolitical mood. I of course am completely 
convinced by this preliminary expose and have the greatest 
confidence in what is to come. And without flattery I am in- 
terested and eager to see more of it. The thing goes on 
most felicitously as to phrasing, is developed with a pleasing 
assurance. Here, you feel, is a man who knows what he is 
writing. A sort of air of meditation broods over it all and is 
positively seductive. What Blackwood may think I don't 
know and am not enough of a devil to guess at. I've sent off 
tonight the MS of the first instalment with a pressing letter 
of mine advocating not so much the man (you) as the ex- 
pounder of opinions views and feeling very near my own 
heart, but which I could never hope to express with anything 
like such certitude and effect. (This because B. had hinted 
/ would be acceptable in critical wandering which is all I 
am capable of) . I've also warned Meldrum who I am sure 
will do what's right by your copy. I mentioned that you are 
leaving H for good in a short time. 

1 The death of Robert Black, MJD , and of two friends by a mountaineer- 
ing accident in Switzerland. 

2 The Contemporary Critic. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I've been unable to think but the writing has not been the 
easier for that. Tell good old Ford that he is not utterly un- 
done as yet by the Fatal Partnership, but there is gathering 
a pretty lot of material for a sombre drama of the literary- 
domestic order which he may have an opportunity to write 
and make his fortune thereby. 
My love to all the houseful 

Always yours 


Monday evening 
[August 5, 1901.] 

Last night I posted, you a letter care of Huef fer who will 
no doubt forward. We did not know Dr Black was your 
wife's brother till Huef fer wrote. We were greatly shocked 
but as at the same time Ford said you were coming directly 
to Winchelsea I did not write to the Cearne. One never has 
anything to say unless one is completely and stonily indif- 
ferent. Assure your wife of our profound sympathy and 
we are concerned about her health. It must have been a 
cruel shock. Drop us a line because Jess imagines that you 
delay the visit to W. on account of your wife's unsatisfactory 
state. I trust not. 

The MS went off to E'gh on Saturday evening, backed 
by a letter to B pressing for immediate consideration not 
so much on account of my interest in your work as in the 
views expressed with which I am in complete accord and 
could never hope to put forward in a manner so effective 
and fundamental. I wrote in that strain just because B has 
been asking me to contribute some critical views and so 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

this pins him down so to speak. I've also warned Meldrum 
who is friendly and is sure to put his shoulder to the coach 
if B sticks in the mud of hesitation with it. My impressions 
I have put down in the other letter to you and here only say 
emphatically First rate! Get on with the lid instalment. 
It is the right thought, the right tone, the right words. 

Ever yours 

J. C. 

Of course it is impossible to guess how it'll strike B. 
I build my hopes on the judicial tone. Anyway speak with 
authority! I mean force the note of it. That is your line. 
You do it so well. And after all you have the right to be 
magistral. You know! 

[August 7, 1901.] 

I've written to B saying that the end of the paper shall 
be ready next week and'll reach him through my hands. 

The fact is my dear fellow that if the machine runs stiffly 
(as you say because no creaking is audible in part I) it is 
because of dis-use, of non-use. The raw thought is with 
you valuable, weighty, informed by sensitive feeling and 
justice, flowing from instinct and therefore the more valu- 
able. The distilling apparatus may be clogged as to pipes, 
but it has only to be kept at work to clear itself. Meantime 
no one would guess or suspect that there is anything th'e 

I repeat: the authoritative attitude is the attitude for you. 
Every truth requires some pretence to make it live. Let 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

this be your pretence, your pdse. Speak magistrally no mat- 
ter how you may feel 

I am with you, in thought, during every spare minute, but 
with all my hopefulness I don't find anything really con- 
vincing to say. So vale 

Ever yours 


[August, 1901.] 

... I think that it would be impolitic to spring upon 
B'wood the 2d version. The fact is that the first version 
gave me a very favourable impression and at any rate 
since you leave the decision to me I simply dare not interfere 
now. The paper as a whole is very good. I consider the 
first version of part II simply too short but in no other way 
defective. I regretted a certain lack of development. You 
should have spread your elbows more taken room, spoken 
louder. Now the 2d version of part II is even shorter than 
the first version. On that ground alone (the thing being 
left to me) I would refrain from putting it before B'wood. 
We want weight, volume, a more opulent roll of your par- 
ticular thunder that's how I feel. 

I write as I think. Of course if you instruct me definitely 
to forward the 2d version I shall do so at once and write 
to B'wood in the sense suggested in your letter. Only I 
repeat: we had better not. 

I trust they won't keep us in suspense very long but the 
method of their madness is leisurely. 

Love to you all Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[August 23, 1901.] 

I am bitterly disappointed at B'wood refusing your paper. 
The act seems to me unqualifiable; neither does he qualify 
it getting off the track with vague civilities. One can only 
say "damn!" 

I haven't the heart to say anything else, besides mention- 
ing that the addition of the matter you sent me last would 
not, as far as I can see, have influenced the issue of this 

I shall send you the MS by the next post. You may work 
at it a little; but I despair of the current intelligence which 
nothing seems capable of stirring. It is like a viscous pool. 
Things at most can fall into it, and be lost, and give no 
ripple. 1 Is it worth throwing things into it? Love to you all 

Ever yours 


1 Such was the fate of the essay, The Contemporary Critic 



10th June, 1902 


In so far as writing goes I hardly dare look you in the 
face. Why do you introduce the name of Pinker into your 
letter? It is almost indelicate on your part. The times in- 
deed are changed and all my art has become artfulness in 
exploiting agents and publishers. 

I am simply afraid to show you my work; and as to writ- 
ing about it this I can't do. I have now lost utterly all 
faith in myself, all sense of style, all belief in my power of 
telling the simplest fact in a simple way. For no other way 
do I care now. It is an unattainable way. My expression 
has become utterly worthless: it is time for the money to 
come rolling in. 

The Blackwood vol: shall be coming out in two three 
months : Youth Heart of Dark ss and a thing I am trying to 
write now called the End of the Tether an inept title to 
heartbreaking bosh. Pawling's vol. shall follow at a decent 
interval; four stories of which Typhoon is first and best. I 
am ashamed of them all; I don't believe either in their pop- 
ularity or in their merit. Strangely enough it is yet my share 
of Romance (collab on stuff with Ford) that fills me with the 
least dismay My mind is becoming base, my hand heavy, 
my tongue thick as though I had drunk some subtle poison, 
some slow poison that will make me die, die as it were with- 
out an echo. You understand? 

I am always coming to you and some day I shall appear. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I don't suppose you are angry with me; for in truth where 
would be the sense of expending your fine stock of indigna- 
tion upon such a base wretch. 

The other day I ran into Duckth to try and see you. No 

Remember me affectionately to your wife whose trans, 
of Karenina is splendid. Of the thing itself I think but little, 
so that her merit shines with the greater lustre. Jessie joins 
me in our love to you all. We talk of your boy very often. 
Oh' my dear dear fellow I am so very disgusted with my 
mental impotence, so afraid of my hollowness so weary 
deadly weary of writing! 

Ever yours 


[August, 1902.] 

I was glad to see your handwriting and am excitedly inter- 
ested in the venture. But what great of the world do you 
imagine I have under my roof? Great buzzing flies, fine 
large wasps these are my visitors which make a noise in 
the world. I see no one from month to month. Four or 
five months ago G.B.S. towed by Wells came to see me re- 
luctantly and I nearly bit him. Since then barring Ford 
there has been no one. 

I am trying to rewrite the story End of Tether which (per- 
haps you've heard) has been burnt when completed. The 
weariness and disgust of that awful toil nearly kills me every 
day; just leaving breath enough in me every evening to feel 
the utter misery, the complete foolishness of the undertaking. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

How can one believe in one's story when it has to be 
written for the second time and if one does not believe how 
is one to write? Imagine trying to clothe in flesh a naked 
skeleton, without the faith to help you in the impossible 
task I Enough. 
Our love to you all 

Ever yours 


PS Galsworthy is coming today. I had not seen him for 
3 months. 

17 Oct. 1902. 

When the book * arrived I had been up two nights trying 
to finish my Bl'wood story 2 to time. It was a matter of life 
and death as it were for otherwise I would have missed an 
instalment. I had neither the time nor even the right to 
look at the book in this hurry and mental stress. I had 3 
hours' sleep for two nights and for the third no sleep at all 
going to bed as I am in a state. I may describe it as fre- 
netic idiocy. 

Today 1 am recovering. This evening I shall read the 

I had urged Wells to order the book before I had your let- 
ter. I did not know it was to appear so soon however. Be- 
sides my dear fellow with this miserable affair I was not 
conscious of the days passing and did not know whether the 

1 The Art of Wmnlfred Matthews, by E G Duckworth. 1902. 

2 The End of the Tether. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

sun shone. We are staying here till Monday or Tuesday 

With love to you all. 

Ever yours 


Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 

27 Nov. [1902] 

I am glad you review me in the Academy, and I am sorry 
you had the bother. Somehow it never occurred to me that 
mine would go to you. I am in luck if you are not. 

I sent you two the copy as soon as I got it. They were 
late in sending them to me; then I, myself, lost a day. 

Horrible! Horrible! I am like Philip IV I am over- 
whelmed: He however was overwhelmed by the death of 
Velasquez while I am overcome [by the sight of my] three- 
headed monster in the green cover. 1 I hate the sight of the 

How's David? His books are on the way to me to be in- 

Our love to you 

Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


22 Dec. 1902 

I've just finished a long letter to David introducing my 

1 Youth, A Narrative and Two Other Stones. Bkckwood 1902. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

old friend Cooper. I am quite excited at the result of the 
experiment. Will they hit it off together? That's the ques- 

With my usual brutality I've neglected to express my feel- 
ings very much awakened by your review of Youth. 1 

How nice they are I renounce to tell. My dearest fellow 
you quite overcome me. And your brave attempt to grapple 
with the foggishness of H of D, to explain what I myself 
tried to shape blindfold, as it were, has touched me pro- 
foundly. You are the Seer of the Figures in the Carpet. 
The Figure in the Carpet of the E of this T you have seen 
so perfectly and described in a line and a half with so much 
precision that even to me it has been a sort of revelation. 

Thanks and thanks again. 

The ruck takes its tone from you. You know how to serve 
a friend! I notice the reviews as they come in since your 
article. Youth is an epic; that's settled. And the H of D 
is this and that and the other thing they aren't so positive 
because in this case they aren't intelligent enough to catch on 
to your indications. But anyhow it's a high water mark. If 
it hadn't been for you it would have been, dreary bosh an 
incoherent bogie tale. Yes. That note too was sounded only 
you came just in time. As to the E of T 2 you have seen the 
Figure but the miserable threadbare warp and woof of the 
thing had fascinated them already. They didn't want you 
there. Touching, tender, noble, moving. ... Let us spit! 

However the Manchester Guardian was fairly intelligent 
and, I suppose, you have seen the thawing of great snows 
on the hoary summits of the Athenaeum? I am still shaking 
at the august phenomenon. 

1 The Academy, December, 1902. 

2 The End of the Tether. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

J. Bl'wood sent me word that the thing sells decently and 
that if the Christmas does not kill it or if ... 

It's strange how I always, from the age of fourteen, dis- 
liked the Christian religion, its doctrines, ceremonies and 
festivals. Presentiment that some day it will work my un- 
doing, I suppose. Now it's quite on the cards that the 
Bethlehem legend will kill the epic, and the bogie tale, and 
the touching, tender, noble captain Newcome Colonel 
Whalley thing. Hard. Isn't it? And the most galling fea- 
ture is that nobody not a single Bishop of them believes 
in it. The business in the stable isn't convincing; whereas 
my atmosphere (vide reviews) can be positively breathed. 

Our festive greetings, love and best wishes 
Ever yours 


Pent Farm 
Stanford, near Hythe 


22 Dec. [1902.] 
[To David Garnett.] 


We have sent off three volumes of the "Leather-Stocking 
Tales" one from each of us with our love to you. 

You have promised me to read these stories and I would 
recommend you to begin with the Last of the Mohicans 
then go on with the Deerslayer and end with the Prairie. I 
read them at your age in that order; and I trust that you, of 
a much later generation, shall find in these pages some at 
least of the charm which delighted me then and has not evap- 
orated even to this day. 9 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Thirty four years ago is a long long time to look back 
upon. And then already these stories were not of the day 
before; now the arrangement of their words has grown old 
they say very old. 

It may be. Time spares no one. Even you shall grow old 
some day. But I have a great confidence in you; and I be- 
lieve that you shall respond as I did in my time to the 
genuine feeling of the descriptions and the heroic temper of 
the narrative. 

Your affectionate friend 



1903 - 1904 

Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


Wednesday [May, 1903] 

Many thanks for your letter. I've read it with attention 
and I fancy I quite take hold of the thought enshrined there- 
in. But maybe I don't. I can be colossally stupid and with- 
out any great effort either I am indeed in that way 
equipped to go very far. 

The bicycle news is good news; don't wait for the dis- 
tant date you fix but snatch a run when the spirit moves you 
with the shortest of wires for a herald. I am here fixed to 
slave and groan for months. Harpers got the book 1 of 
which not a quarter yet is written. I am indeed appalled 
at myself when I think what rotten contemptible bosh it 
must and shall be. By Jove I am too tired and with a 
heart worn too threadbare to be honest. 

Love from us all to you and your house. If the boy cycles 
too bring him along. 

Ever yours 


1 Nostromo. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

[March, 1904.] 

I am very sorry but I had a distinct impression of having 
written to say we were coming to London. Please forgive 
me this time. 

If I haven't seen you I've seen no one else either. Dawson 
did turn up once for an hour and, yes Cunninghame Gra- 
ham who invited himself to the Pent and hadi to be told we 
were coming up on the very day he proposed for his visit. 

I tried to write (and finish) an imbecile sort of story in 
that time. It is very imbecile but it isn't finished yet. 1 

If I did better work, more of it and a little easier you 
would see me often enough. As it is I am shy of inflicting 
myself upon my friends. I go about oppressed, severely 
irritated against my works, never free from it, never satis- 
fied with it. Not a man of profit or pleasure for his friends. 
But it's too difficult to explain. I can only ask you to be- 
lieve in my very steady affection for you and all yours. 
You are much more with me than you suspect. All uncon- 
scious you check and sometimes urge my pen. It's a fact. 

Ever yours 


6th July 1904 

Ecco-la. Here's your A F. 2 in proof of my affection. Two 
nights and the morning of today. Isn't it miserable! Isn't 

1 Nostromo 

2 Article on Ajiatole France, The Speaker, July 16, 1904. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

it miserable to have to work in fetters and bound and gagged 
as it were by the irresolution and sluggishness of one's in- 
tellect, by a difficulty of saying the simplest thing. 

Measure then my affection for you. But how to give you 
an idea of my disaffection towards the whole body of Editors 
I am at a loss. The best way would be to suggest that the 
malefactor conducting the Speaker should give me 5 gns for 
these pages. Explain to him that this is the price of my con- 
science for abetting him in his weekly crime. Had his crime 
been daily 10 per thou: would have been my figure. Con- 
sole him by the remark that he shall not have J.C. in his page 
in the future at that or any other conceivable price. Strength- 
en his faint soul by pointing out that the thing is low down 
and commonplace enough to please the divine mediocrity of 
the only god he knows his public. Tell him these whole- 
some and fortifying truths in order that his constitution 
should be braced up for the extraction of 5 gns. Comprenez- 
vous? This is a matter of principle. 

For the rest I won't insult your intelligence by stating in 
too many words that the thing is yours and wholly yours, 
written for you, meant for you to sell, or give away, or 
light a fire with. Comprenez-vous? This is a matter of fact. 

Other things I would like to stipulate are: that my head- 
ing should be preserved and if possible the article billed on 
posters. This is a matter of fancy. 

Our best love to you in your domestic solitude. You 
should run down here for a night for several nights. Who 
knows how long I shall last. The sands oh Brother are run- 
ning out. 

Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


3 Sept 1904 

I drop you these lines just to say that Nostromo is fin- 
ished; a fact upon which my friends may congratulate me 
as upon a recovery from a dangerous illness. Therefore I am 
writing to dear Jack Galsworthy, to you and but there 
does not seem to be any more friends whose congratulations 
would be enlightened enough for such an occasion. 

Your article in the Spectator [Speaker] 1 in which you 
beat a dummy called Benson with a stick called Rutherford 2 
is, as an exercise in whacking, simply admirable. It is some- 
thing more too, since it has made me take down from the 
shelf the Revolution of Tanner's Lane. Your stick my dear 
boy has a queer aspect of a medieval staff already. But it's 
good and more than good. It's precious wood of straight 
fibre and with a faint, delicate scent. But I regret the dis- 
sipation of your energy, the waste of vigour and the sound of 
divine blows lost in an unresonant medium. No dust is seen 
to fly. There is no dust, even, in the dummy. Not so much 
truth as there would be in a handful of dust. Nothing ! For 
I have looked on the dummy too with a malicious pleasure 
and a melancholy curiosity. Alas. This is what we are all 
coming to at least what I am coming to. A few days later 
I saw (and read) in the 'Standard' a warm and gentlemanly 
appreciation of the dumminess of your dummy. Amen! 
And I beheld the bald summit of my ambition. Some day I 

1 The Speaker is meant. 

2 Mark Rutherford. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

shall write a thing that'll be reviewed thus and not other- 
wise. Then in the dead of night, in the woods about the 
Cearne, wearing the cope and the pointed mitre of a High 
Priest, in the secrecy of a persecuted faith, by the light of a 
torch held by David clad in the white vestments you shall 
bury my tame and impotent soul. You'll bury it alive by 
God' and go home smiling ironically, and sleep no more 
that night. 

Meantime what do you think of the subject on the en- 
closed piece of paper? 1 Will the public stand it? Can my 
tact and sense of proprieties be trusted on that classical 

My love to you all 

Yours ever 


PS Send me back the scrap please with a word of how 
you are. 

23rd Dec 1904 

A man who makes maps even in imaginary countries 
should have a compass; a pocket-compass to show him the 
way of his exploring. 

The lenses are not first rate but Borys (whom you per- 
haps remember) got them specially for you. They may 
serve to examine a casual beetle or a blade of grass or a bit 
of moss that you may pick up in your wanderings in the 
woods the deep woods of an imaginary country. 

And with these insignificant tokens of our love we send 

1 This, I think, was a sketch of a Napoleonic subject. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

you our best wishes for that uncertain and hazardous jour- 
ney 1 upon which you are engaged now. 

Your friend 


1 David was going to Russia with his mother. 



Pent Farm 
Stanford, Near Hythe 


20th July 1905 

I am rather ashamed of the silly thing 1 I had to send to 
the Speaker; tho 3 I think that to say it contains all my 
philosophy of life is a severe hit. But I suppose you know 
best, for myself I don't know what my philosophy is. I 
wasn't even aware I had it. Am sorry to think I must have 
since you say so. Shall I die of it do you think? 

Your article on Sagas first rate and extracts quoted are 
good. I quite see how one could get dramas out of that. I 
own I am much more interested in your drama 2 than in all 
the sagas that were ever written. I don't believe their merits 
are very peculiar but I do believe that you can make use of 
that quarry. 

I am anxious to see if only one act of your play. I would 
keep it only one day and return it duly registered. Do let 
me have a look into the chamber of horrors of your brain. 

I send you 2 papers by Norman [Douglas]. Pray do 
something. [Rest missing.] 

1 Article, Books, in The Speaker, July, 1905. 

2 The Feud. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 
Stanford Near Hythe 


8 Nov. 1906 

Thanks for your dear letter. I waited till now so as to 
finish my imbecile story before I spoke to you. The prin- 
cipal thing I have to say is that I want the plays as soon as 
possible both plays. Send them at once my dear fellow: 
first because I am impatient to see them anyhow but also 
for the reason that just now I am especially fit to read them 
with something approaching understanding. How long this 
blessed state will last I can't say. 

But what about the performance? Where are you going 
to try? Remembering your sardonic retort "Hengler's Cir- 
cus" I dare not air my theory of preaching to the Gentiles 
in the market place. And yet I feel that I'm not utterly 
wrong there. But perhaps it is impracticable perhaps 
there is no market place open to us even for the purpose of 
having oyster shells and rotten eggs thrown at our heads. 
The more's the pity. 

Jessie sends her dear love to you all. There's something 
wrong with her eyes just now. I am not at all easy about 

My very affectionate regards to your wife. Remember 
me to your hoy. We talk of him often here 

Yours ever 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Pent Farm 
Stanford Near Hythe 


[November 17, 1906.] 

I got the play 1 at 9 this morning. I've shut myself up 
with it at once and I won't come out of the room. I will see 
no one, will let no word or thing come between it and me till 
I've written to you. 

The conduct of the action is simply admirable. I am us- 
ing here the exact word. Admirable from an abstract point 
of view. Whether you (or anybody else) has the right (I 
don't mean the ethical right) to throw, in practice, that 
quintessence of tragedy at our heads (as it were) is another 
question. It is the quintessence of tragedy and also the 
quintessence of your really amazing talent for the stage. I 
know a little what writing is. We come to our work attuned 
by long meditation, prepared, in a way, for what is to come 
from under our pen, by the processes of our imagination and 
of our intelligence and temperamentally disposed (since it 
is our own work) to accept its necessity its truth. I am 
putting to you stupidly what you know very well. But my 
point is this that I don't think, my dear fellow, you have 
realized the firmness of mind necessary to an audience who 
would face your play. If the phrase weren't idiotic I would 
say that the play is too concentrated. It hits one exactly 
like a bullet. You can see it coming I admit but that 
doesn't make it easier in the least. On the contrary, it pro- 

1 The Breaking Point A Censured Play, by Edward Garnett. Duckworth 
&Co 1907. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

longs the agony and brings on that feeling of helplessness 
which I think is fatal to the effect of the play. 

The poignancy of things human lies in the alternative. 
Grace as conceived and presented by you may be true but 
her position is no longer poignant. From the moment we 
hear and see her in the wood all hope is over. It becomes 
obvious that nothing Sherr : can say or do is of the slightest 
use unless indeed he were to tie her up hand and foot and 
carry her off in that way. And mind my dearest Edward 
you present this state of the girl as initial, fundamental. 
That's her character you say. But don't think for a mo- 
ment we remain indifferent. The effect is produced only 
too well. The effect is nightmarish. Whether you meant it 
to be so or not I don't know but that's the effect. The 
doom is not hanging over her head. It has already fallen. 
And one feels that Sherr: is not the man to lift it. And 
what's not less important Sherr: too is presented to us ini- 
tially as utterly hopeless. One feels him to be so. We are 
flung right into the middle of a situation that is already 
gone too far. 

That's her character you say. I have a certain diffi- 
culty in grasping it. You may tell me I don't know women 
and it's very possible I don't. But to attempt a definition 
she is the incarnation of submissiveness, of a submissiveness 
so perfect that it is inconceivable why she should not go 
away with Sherr: when he asks her to do so and when it is 
absolutely clear there is no alternative. One is driven to 
ask oneself why she had given herself to Sherrington From 
love? But v/here's her love now? From simple submissive- 
ness to the hand that took hold of her? But where is her sub- 
missiveness now? These considerations are extremely dis- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

turbing. They are the more so because one does not see why 
she should stick to her father like this. The man is not a ter- 
rible or a seductive personality. It seems no personality 
could be terrible or seductive enough in the situation as pre- 
sented to us. Neither is he pathetically appealing. He is 
not pitiful, he is not lovable, he is not awful. Then why? 
Why this enslaved state? What keeps her chained so? 
Sense of duty the strength of her affection? But you 
can't eat your cake and have it. If the sense of duty and 
the strength of affection are so terribly effective now where 
were they when she gave herself to Sherr'on? By the terms 
of the problem she could not have done so from passion 
because passion which is not stronger than filial piety is not 
passion, it's some other thing of which I have no knowledge. 

In its psychological origins the situation for me is enig- 
matical. If you meant to present to us a drama of conscience 
then I haven't understood your intention at all That of 
course would be mainly my fault. But not altogether be- 
cause I am no more stupid than the audience would be. And 
this is a play for an audience distinctly triumphantly so. 
Ibsen himself has never written a play that was so much, so 
perfectly in its workmanship a play for the stage. 

But what I want to point out here is the play's quality of 
hopelessness. At the end of the first act we feel that every- 
thing is over. I have felt it so strongly that I can't keep it 
to myself, I can't write of the play and omit saying so. It 
would be the merest hypocrisy. The attitude, the words of 
the girl at the end of Act 1st settle the whole business. And 
even Sherrington seems to think so- too. You have every 
right to invite us to behold this woman perish. But the im- 
pression is that she is done for already and what we are to 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

see is the mangling of her body. The play thus misses poig- 
nancy and becomes harrowing. It is so terribly harrowing 
that we want to take refuge in incredulity. We ask ourselves 
on purpose to ease our feelings: what sort of lover is that 
who (under these circumstances) can't persuade her. It's in- 
conceivable that the girl should have given herself to him 
and then suddenly should have become so insensible to his 
words, to his anguish, to his person. It isn't fate. It seems 
more like a spell, a mysterious spell which holds them both. 
And one goes on asking, what who cast it on them. They 
are done for whatever happens, no matter what anybody 
does Mansell or Mrs Sherrington. They have lost footing 
to begin with. It's difficult to express what I mean. I must 
try to do it by a concrete image. We are called to look at 
two people crossing a torrent a mad rush of water their 
chances are one in a thousand. We even feel that they 
must be swept off. We look at them. As long as they stand 
it is a poignant sight. Directly they are swept off their feet 
the sight ceases to be poignant, anguishing, appealing. It 
becomes harrowing only. My dear Edward you are invit- 
ing us to see a harrowing sight. Their characters are such 
that they never had a footing. And that, frankly, is incom- 
prehensibleat least to me. For I ask myself how on earth 
did they get so far into the bed of that torrent? 

I come back to my idea that this is a drama of conscience 
so subtly balanced that it escapes my comprehension. But 
here I am faced by the difficulty of time. The position has 
lasted for some time. What brings on them the crisis of con- 
science. The word of the doctor? of a doctor! The assur- 
ance of that man. Then it's not conscience but funk. It 
can't be conscience since it is plain that it is the fact of be- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ing pregnant that affects her so. And here a sheer question 
of fact arises. Did she really want a doctor to tell her so? 
Why my dear Edward a girl so afraid of the plain issue 
would have been in a blue funk from the first from the 
first fortnight. The doctor's assuring her that it was not so 
could not have assuaged her fears. One does not want to 
be a great expert in seduction to feel sure of that. And you 
represent her as doubting, absolutely doubting the word of 
the doctor while she is already in a state of pregnancy ad- 
vanced enough for that man to form an opinion! I warn 
you solemnly that no man or woman in the auditorium will 
believe you for a moment. She was much more likely to 
rush out of the consulting room and to do away with herself 
there and then since it is obvious she being "established" 
as you "establish" her character nothing on earth can mat- 
ter. She's doomed by that funk lest the father should know. 
Because that's what it is. Mrs Sherr: arrival cannot pos- 
sibly have anything to do with that denoument. It's simply 
a question of time. It's that which decides it: Sherr'on goes 
to tell her father and she jumps into the river. But the 
thing in another two months shall become apparent anyhow 
and she will jump into the river! 

Thus this girl who can neither face her father nor her 
lover faces death. Here my dear Edward I am contro- 
verting the psychology of that action I am going to say 
elementary things. Girl mothers have committed suicide be- 
fore in the history of mankind. They have. But never 
from the mere fear of parental wrath or tenderness to pa- 
rental anguish. To maintain that is a negation not only of 
love but even of mere sensuality. The suicide follows the 
abandonment by the lover. It is comprehensible even as 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

caused by parental wrath in the absence of the faithful 
lover some accidental absence. But here the lover is at 
hand with his person, his voice, his entreaties, his devotion 
and his fidelity with all the personal fascination of a man 
fascinating enough to have seduced that girl. She could not 
have loved him. Then why did she give herself to him? 
After all it isn't the usual sort of thing in her sphere of life 
to go all that length out of mere casual kindness. But on 
the theory or reading of her character as temperamentally 
submissive perhaps neither the attack nor the defence were 
very fierce. Very well. Then surely in that passive woman, 
in that acquiescent and timid soul the dread of parental 
wrath or of the parental sorrow if you like and the love 
for the man who had conquered her (from herself alone) 
would have counterbalanced each other giving her poor soul 
a sort of awful equilibrium. After Sherr: went away she 
would have sat there till father and lover came back to 
"tear her in two" as Mansell says. But to go out and drown 
herself an act of energy anyhow never. You make it go 
down, your art does it; but not for long. The arbitrariness 
of it causes a reaction. After that come surprise and doubt. 
You can't do the impossible. 

A scene in which these two would be squabbling over her, 
the selfish, fatuously selfish father and that lover whose love 
could not move I won't say a mountain, but a grain of 
sand a scene in which they would be pulling her to and 
fro till she died in their hands, that is a scene my dear Ed- 
ward which you could write, which you could make go down 
with tremendous effect I am confident. And, you know, it 
would be quite conceivable; conceivable by the audience I 
mean. You are capable of that achievement. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

As it is the going away of Sherrington remains inconceiv- 
able. Don't let us forget that he is her lover. He has her 
there. The thing is done. She has gone away from her father. 
All he has got now to do is to lock the doors and order the 
carriage. Why should he leave her alone to rush off and 
force himself upon the father. To what end? What can he 
expect? Bring him to the girl? As the thing stands now I 
frant to know why? In the first act he wanted her to go 
away from her father. That was the difficulty. Now she has 
done it actually has done it. Run from her home to the 
house of her lover. He has got her; he has got his supreme 
chance. And he drops her! At first when Mansell tells him 
his wife had been to see the father (and as he does not know 
what she said there) it is comprehensible that he should rush 
over there to be at hand and take the girl away. But once 
Grace is with him there is no earthly reason that I can dis- 
cover. And I am not particularly dense as a rule. 

He could hardly have expected to get the old man's bless- 
ing. If he thought that the girl was going mad (and that's 
the first we hear of it) that was not the way to save her 
sanity. For if she was going mad with anything it was with 
the apprehension of her father knowing. It's a shock to see 
him rush off leaving her to her madness to put his hand 
to it in fact. 

It's absolutely marvellous tho' how for the time of the 
reading your skill of presentation makes one accept all this ! 
But only for the time of reading. Directly afterwards one 
is positively assailed by all these questions, all these doubts 
and objections which do believe me I haven't sat to think 
out. They have rushed upon me, unexpected. And anything 
but welcome. They have rushed upon me with such a force 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

that I cannot hold my tongue. There is no other man in the 
world to whom I would have written as I am writing to you 

It is a magnificent subject. I entreat you my dear Ed- 
ward to put this play in the drawer for six months or so. 
Then consider my objections afresh. I may be wrong. But I 
am perfectly sincere; and in absolute sincerity there is 
always a grain of truth. I care too much for your work to 
pass it off with a complimentary phrase; and about your 
work I can speak to you without fear of being misunder- 
stood but to you alone. These words are for no other 
ears. I beg of you not to show this letter to any one but 
to your wife of course if she wishes to see it. No third per- 
son would understand how much affection, how much re- 
gard and respect for every line you write there is in this 
burst of criticism. I don't choose to be misinterpreted as I 
would be sure to be. The play is admirably done. I be- 
lieve this, and that's all I need say to men who are strangers 
to your effort and to my anxiety. And you must forgive the 
stupidity, the inevitable stupidity that no one can steer clear 
of in this world. If I have not understood you I would have 
at least showed you how in this instance you may be misun- 
derstood. And that knowledge may be useful too in a uni- 
verse ruled mainly by fools. 

With our dear love 

Ever yours 



Letters from Joseph. Conrad 

Pent Farm 
Stanford Near Hythe 


20 Nov. 1906 

You attach too much importance to my remarks. At the 
same time you do seem to me a little unreasonable in dis- 
counting my judgment on the ground that it is delivered with 
the knowledge of the end! How else could I judge? You 
advance as a sort of objection that I reason from my knowl- 
edge of the end. I reason of course from my knowledge of 
the whole. In what way the ignorance of the audience is 
more likely to be right I don't know. I can assure you that 
the audience will judge or sum up its feeling about the 
play from its knowledge of the whole. It cannot be other- 
wise. To reproach me with my clairvoyance is not exactly 
just my dear Edward. But if it is a sin then it isn't a very 
great one. Moreover, referring to the same part of your 
letter please note that I never said the audience would be 
bored. I said the audience wouldn't stand it, quite another 
thing. And even in that I shouldn't wonder if I were totally 

We must meet soon. 1 am just now horribly seedy and 
depressed. I am meditating a flight to the South if it can be 
arranged. I must run over to town on Tuesday next, if I 
can, just to see you for an hour or so. 

There would be much more to say about the play but 
frankly just now I am not up to it. 
Love from us all 

Ever yours 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Someries, Luton 

1 Oc. 1907 

I only heard from Jack yesterday of your review 1 in the 
Nation. I sent to the Railway Station today for the No. 

It makes a fine reading for an author and no mistake. I 
am no end proud to see you've spotted my poor old woman. 
You've got a fiendishly penetrating eye for one's most secret 
intentions. She is the heroine. And you are appallingly 
quick in jumping upon a fellow. Yes O! yes my dear Ed- 
ward that's what's the matter with the estimable Verloc 
and his wife: "the hidden weakness in the springs of im- 
pulse." I was so convinced that something was wrong there 
that to read your definition has been an immense relief 
great enough to be akin to joy. The defect is so profoundly 
temperamental that to this moment I can't tell how I went 
wrong. Of going wrong I was aware even at the time of 
writing all the time. You may imagine what a horrible 
grind it was to keep on going with this suspicion at the back 
of the head. 

You must preach to me a little when we meet and even 
pray over me if you only will. Unless you think I am past 
praying for. 

Sitting here alone with the glowing lamp in this silent, as 
yet strange house, I feel a great affection for you and a 
great confidence in your judgment. Twelve years now- 
just a round dozen my dear since I hear your voice in my 
ear as I put aside each written page. Yes. A great affec- 
tion and an absolute confidence. Ever yours 

1 The Secret Agent. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

When are you coming to see me in my new surroundings? 
Let it be soon. Any day. Any week. It'd really be no 
trouble to come over here and sleep one night before going 
to the Cearne at the end of your London spell. Only let me 
know the day because I want to meet you at the station. 
Remember me very affectionately to your wife. Jessie 
sends her dear love. 


[October, 1907.] 

Thanks for your letter. I've been expecting the appear- 
ance of the play 1 and the attack on the censor with impa- 

Of course I'll write something since you think it may do 
good in the endeavor to get us rid of a bitter absurdity. 
Only I don't think my word will have any weight at all. 
I've been so cried up of late as a sort of freak, an amazing 
bloody foreigner writing in English (every blessed review of 
S A 2 had it so and even yours) that anything I say will be 
discounted on that ground by the public that is if the 
public, that mysterious beast, takes any notice whatever 
which I doubt. You understand that having the novel of 
Mr B Fry and his mamma for the fireside and Mr Hall 
Caine's "Christian" for their evening out they are not in- 
sensate enough to bother their heads about an absolutely in- 
comprehensible controversy. They won't. Most of them 
have never heard of the Censor of plays and when they 
hear of his existence they will become at once instinctively 

1 The Breaking Point. 

2 The Secret Agent. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

his warm partisans. He is an institution, a respectable in- 
stitution; he is an obvious and orderly fact; he satisfies the 
common mind and soothes the common cowardice. Andrew 
Lang will tell them perhaps that he is a historical survival 
and that'll capture their imaginations. To have a court offi- 
cial standing by to warn off criminal attempts on the deli- 
cacy of their morality will appear to them flattering and 
natural too. For morality must be protected. That is self 
evident. Such protection is worthy in every sense and most- 
ly in this that its existence in the corporeal shape of the 
Censor expresses the great fact of national self righteousness. 
Which fact is great and praiseworthy and very English. 

On the other hand the public will learn of your existence. 
They will hear your name, and Chesterton's, and Gals- 
worthy's and Archer's and, say, mine too and 40 other 
names. They will perceive dimly that we are not stock- 
brokers, not clerks, not manufacturers or bankers, or law- 
yers, or doctors or bishops or cricketers or labour members, 
or scavengers, or company directors. We will in short appear 
to be unauthorised persons. Some Andrew Lang or other 
will tell them, or rather insinuate to them, that we are vul- 
gar rogues and vagabonds. They'll accept this as a lumin- 
ous statement for various self evident reasons one of them 
being that it'll save them trouble. A controversy is trou- 
blesome to the public mind. A controversy on the liberty 
of art is doubly troublesome because to that mind it is in- 
comprehensible. When we say: Art, that public mind 
thinks (if it thinks at all) of water colour landscape as prac- 
tised by their aunts, sisters, sweethearts. Thus our words 
are bound to sound to them fearfully unintelligible or abom- 
inably perverse. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Of course Lord A and the Licenser of plays take them- 
selves seriously. They think themselves guardians of public 
morality. In this belief they have with them the public 
opinion in so far as it is not public indifference. The day 
this support is withdrawn from them they will become 
ashamed of their functions and the censorship of plays will 

I will take the line of the Policeman if you like: but 
frankly I don't think it is a good line. It is of course work- 
able but I'll confess to you that it does not run in the way of 
my convictions. You say The Censor should be a police- 
man etc. But my conviction is that the Censor should not 
be at all. You say: change the policeman. But who is to 
judge of his discrimination? How is he to be found out? 
Who is to dismiss him? Who is to be trusted with the power 
to nominate him? Where are you going to find the tact, the 
wisdom, the breadth of mind, the artistic sense, the philo- 
sophical impartiality of thought, the wide intellectual sym- 
pathy, the humanistic and the brazen self-confidence neces- 
sary for such a post for you can't draw a hard and fast line 
for him. He can't be a policeman he must be a magistrate, 
a high functionary the supreme judge of form in art, the 
arbiter of moral intention. No. That function is impossible. 
The pretence to exercise it is shameful as all disguised ty- 
ranny is shameful. That's how I feel about it. The institu- 
tion should be attacked on moral grounds as a cowardly 

Yours ever 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Note if you wish it typed send to Pinker with enclosed note. 
Talbot House Arundel Street 


4 p:n. 
[October, 1907.] 


(For you are the Cabecilla of the Grave Guerillos) 
here's my escopette ready to go off. 1 I've loaded it with a 
handful of pretty nasty slugs. Do you see to it that it is 
fired off properly by some steady hand. And look here: no 
censorship ' It's that or nothing. I could not make it short- 
er. I am long because my thought is always multiple but 
it is to the point anyhow. And I haven't spoken from a lit- 
erary point of view. You can do that admirably. But as I 
love you I'll allow you to shorten what's necessary. 2 Indeed 
the thing wants looking through carefully in proof. Only 

a The article, The Censor of Plays, which appeared in The Daily Mail 

2 Conrad was addressing a Da&y Matt audience and it was necessary to 
shorten the paper a little and cut out two or three of the more extreme pas- 
sages. It may be of interest, here, to give, from the original MS these re- 
stored passages 

After "The Censor of plays ' His name was not mthe mouths of all men. 
Far from it" read. 

"His abode was no more distinguished for the veneration of mankind than 
the abode of the common hangman who at any rate does not kill propno 
motu and does not suppress people in the dark." 

After "as an irresponsible Roman Caesar could kill a senator" read. 

"He can go out in the morning this grotesque magistrate of a free com- 
monwealth, catch a donkey on Hampstead Heath lead him into his study and 
set him down in his curule chair Has not Caligula made his horse a consul? 
He can do that and there is no one to say him nay Perhaps indeed no one 
could detect the difference " 

After "he would not dare to be what he is" read 

"He must not even know that his grotesque existence is a direct insult to 
forty-five million more or less of souls certainly neither more nor less pure 
than his own, most of them more intelligent all of them more worthy. I 
say deliberately all of them because of course the Censor of Plays is unique " 

I have always regarded the paper The Censor of Plays as a masterpiece 
of rhetoric, and its spirit of ironical raillery plays round its unhappy subject 
in a manner most fascinating to watch E. G. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

tM Ml- ^^^i I . . . . II I I ,. .^ . II I ! II- ^^^^ 

don't take the gems out. No gem must be taken out. I am 
proud of my powers of stately invective combined with the 
art of putting the finger to the nose. It's a fascinating mix- 
ture. Don't you go Censoring it too much. Your sagacious 
letter (one would think a piece of Macaulay) was not much 
to the point. You remember always that I am a Slav (it's 
your idee fixe} but you seem to forget that I am a Pole. 
You forget that we have been used to go to battle without 
illusions. It's you Britishers that "go in to win" only. We 
have been "going in" these last hundred years repeatedly, to 
be knocked on the head only as was visible to any calm in- 
tellect. But you have been learning your history from Rus- 
sians no doubt. Never mind. I won't say any more or 
you'll call it a mutiny and shoot me with some nasty preface 
perhaps. I am now going to inspect your manner of carv- 
ing into small pieces the Censor of Plays. Book just ar- 

Ever yours 






31 March 1908 

Thanks for your card of admission. 1 I have a morbid 
horror of the theatre. It grows. It has prevented me from 
seeing Jack's Joy. I simply could not make up my mind to 
enter the place of abominations. It is not the horror of 
plays: it is the horror of acting. 

Lately I haven't been ill. I have felt only very useless 
and that's worse. I lose hold of my work too often not to 
grow demoralised. One reacts only up to a certain point. 
But it's no use talking of these things. 

Jessie is very pleased to have been included in your in- 
vitation. The poor woman is getting more and more crip- 
pled. There is a good deal of pain too. For either of us it 
is not a smiling life. 
Our love to you 

Yours ever 


2 1 August, morning 


I write instantly to tell you of the great, great pleasure 
your note brought to me to begin the day with. 

1 The Breaking Pomt, performance at The Haymarket Theater, April, 1908. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Your classification of the tales 1 is eminently satisfactory 
to me. I feel it is perfectly right. I am delighted to see you 
put the Conde 3d; and as to the Informer (for which I have 
been complimented and lauded from the US and from 
France) I put it in to make up the vol to requisite thick- 
ness not from a desire to please all the world and his wife. 
I could not call the vol the Duel because R. Marsh, novelist, 
had already protested against the title (when appearing 
serially in Pall Mall Mag) as having been already used by 
him. Finally I concluded to arrange the tales chronolog- 
ically and thus Gaspar Ruiz had to come first dating from 
Jan. 1905. As at that time I was also writing the middle 
papers of the Mirror of the Sea you will admit that the child 
of your literary adoption has some versatility. Eh? 

W. L. Courtney in a long article calls the Duel tedious 
and Caspar Ruiz a masterpiece; and myself a heartless 
wretch with a pose of brutality like the rest of the moderns. 
Still, always according to WLC, there are two masterpieces 
and a half in the vol G Ruiz being one of them, An Anarch'. 
the other and the Brute the doubtful one. 

Your acceptance of the Duel is balm to my soul. My first 
intention was to call that story The Masters of Europe but I 
rejected it as pretentious. Anyway I did conscientiously try 
to put in as much of Napoleonic feeling as the subject could 
hold. This has been missed by all the reviewers, every 
single one being made blind by the mere tale. I confess to 
you that I rested my trust on your judgment and would have 
been horribly cut up if you had condemned the story. It has 
been waved away by more than one editor I believe and 
the P.M.M. (which favours me generally as witness Ty- 

1 A Set of Six. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

phoon, G. Ruiz) accepted it with some hesitation I am told. 
A complimentary phrase to the address of the P M M would 
be a reward of moral courage and some insight. 

Yes dear. I'll like and respect all you have to say. The 
Times' review seemed to me insignificant. But there is a 
fellow in the Dly News who calls me God only knows on 
what provocation a man without country and language. It 
is like abusing a tongue-tied man, for what can one say. 
The statement is simple and brutal; and any answer would 
involve too many feelings of one's inner life, stir too much 
secret bitterness and complex loyalty to be even attempted 
with any hope of being understood. I thought that a man 
who has written the Nigger, Typhoon, The End oj the 
Tether, Youth, was safe from that sort of thing. But appar- 
ently not. If I had made money by dealing in diamond 
shares like my neighbor here, Sir Julius Wernher, of Ham- 
burg, I would be a baronet of the U K and provided both 
with a language and a country. Still I suppose the man is 
simply an ass; and even the tribute he pays to your wife's 
unforgettable achievement fails to mollify me, for this once. 
For he goes on shoving me with incredible folly on to Tur- 
geniev a propos of G. Ruiz, comparing it with Lear of the 
Steppes do you understand? The Learf !! that infernal 
magazine fake with the Lear oj the Steppesl ! ' ! It is enough 
to make one wonder whether the man understands the words 
he writes whether he has sense and judgement enough to 
come in when it rains? Has ever the Shade of a great artist 
been more amazingly, more gratuitously insulted? Who's 
that fellow? Couldn't someone speak to him quietly and 
suggest he should go behind a counter and weigh out mar- 
garine by the sixpennyworth? I can understand Anderson 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Graham to whom I am such an offensive fraud that he can't 
even see me scratch the side of my nose without exaspera- 
tion at the indecency of the thing. That's a genuine tem- 
peramental expression, frank and honourable enough in its 
way tho' certainly a little funny. He jumps on me with both 
feet in the Country Life "book of the week." But the Dly 
News article is beyond everything the gloomiest pessimism 
as to the good feeling and common decency of daily criticism 
could imagine. 

Thanks once more for your 'dear little note and for the 
forthcoming review. Remember me to your wife and David 
when you write. Love from us all. 

Yours ever 


PS No. The house was unsuitable. We are trying for 
something Ashford way, towards Aldington and Smeeth. 

28 Aug. '08 

I have the Nation and I must thank you for the article. 1 
No doubt to put one's tongue into both cheeks at once is an 
immoral trick and I suspect that it is on that ground that 
you and W. L. Courtney (bow) meet in the condemnation 
of the Informer. 

I don't defend him it. But let me ask is my earnestness 
of no account? Is that a Slavonic trait? And I am earnest, 
terribly earnest. Carlyle bending over the history of Fred- 
erick called the Great was a mere trifle, a volatile butterfly, 
in comparison. For that good man had only to translate 
himself out of bad German into the English we know where- 

1 Review of A Set of Six. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

as I had to work like a coal miner in his pit quarrying all 
my English sentences out of a black night. 

For that reason, I suppose, I read in a study (still unpub- 
lished) of Conrad, that I gloat over scenes of cruelty and am 
obsessed by visions of spilt blood. 

At any rate I think I have always written with dignity, 
with more dignity than the above-alluded-to butterfly ever 
could command And that not certainly from lack of con- 
viction which often takes that outward form. The fact is 
that I have approached things human in a spirit of piety 
foreign to those lovers of humanity who would like to make 
of life a sort of Cook's Personally Conducted Tour from 
the cradle to the grave. I have never debased that quasi- 
religious sentiment by tears and groans and sighs, I have 
neither grinned nor gnashed my teeth. In a word I have be- 
haved myself decently which, except in the gross conven- 
tional sense, is not so easy as it looks. Therefore there are 
those who reproach me with the pose of brutality with the 
lack of all heart delicacy, sympathy sentiment idealism. 
There is even one abandoned creature who says I am a neo- 
platonist? What on earth is that? 

However as long as you are there my memory will be safe. 
That's what I thought while reading your review. The quo- 
tation is most skilfully selected since it is effective per se 
not depending on the remote context and giving a good, al- 
most too good, idea of the story. 

We are going for a week or so to Aldington rooms in a 
farmhouse not very far from the Hueffers. I shall probably 
take a long spell of heavy pulling at the novel 1 without a 
name. I have it all in my head and yet when it comes to 

1 Under Western Eyes. 


Letters r from Joseph Conrad 

writing I simply can't find the words, I have been like that 
before, 10 years ago, but now it is a more serious portent. 
I am just a bit scared but don't mention it to anybody. I 
wish I could believe in an intelligent, benevolent Supreme 
Being to whom I could leave the task of paying my debts 
such debts as the one I owe you for instance. And perhaps 
there is one. I don't know but it is clear that unless there be 
a God to repay you in some heavenly coin I shall die in 
your debt. Love from us all 



15 N r '08 

I have been in hopes of seeing you at the M B 1 week after 
week. Then gout came and I find that even the next Tues- 
day must be given up; the foot is too swollen yet, tho' the 
entertainment has been over now for several days. 

Pray let me know all there is to tell of David. We have 
been anxious ever since I learned your fears 2 and told 
Jessie of them. To ask you for news, since goodness only 
knows when I may see you, is the only object of this. Or 
almost the only object. I want also to know where he is 
now. The generous McClure has sent me 4 copies of the 
Duel in (small) book form; and whether he has read the 
story or not I want to send him an inscribed copy on the 
strength of our old acquaintance. 

1 The Mont Blanc Restaurant 

2 A false alarm about consumption. 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 

Do you see the Editor as of yore? He seems very busy. 
The E.R. 1 looks noble and I hear from all sides that the first 
No has gone off very well, remarkably so. Is that a fact? 
I would like to know, for I am anxious for Ford to make a 

Tarver (the "Flaubert" Tarver) who is now in Chile 
writes me that Nostromo has met with no end of appreciation 
on the seaboard where the scene is laid, and from people in 
the know. That's something, tho' I admit it doesn't amount 
to much. 

Our love to you. 

Ever yours 

Do drop us a few lines. J. CONRAD 

16 Dec J 08 

It is an immense relief. You don't know how that thing 
has been lying on us. You see we had the same experience 
with Borys only some 20 months ago. 

Yes! You speak words of wisdom as the E.R. 2 That 
is the way. I've said already something to the same effect; 
but I don't want to appear as if I wished to meddle; the more 
so that I can't pretend to any experience tho' I may have 
some 'sense' of affairs. 

Since your letter the year-end doesn't seem so gloomy. I'll 
be sending the little vol to David in a day or two as I want 
to write him a short note too. 

Our dear love to you Yours ever 


^The English Review, 
2 The English Review 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

22 Dec 1908 
Someries Luton. 

Your father (who is an older friend of mine than yourself 
but only by some ten months or so) tells me you have read 
already this story. But still I send you the little volume as 
I want you to have something of mine from myself, in mem- 
ory of the days when we both were considerably younger 
and less wise. 

As the years go on you will remember those days better. 
For me they have a very special value on which I will not 
enlarge at present. You were a child then, and I but an in- 
fant a literary infant whose first steps were like your 
own watched over by your mother and father, though I 
don't mean to say with the same anxious interest. That's 
a bond between us, surely. I think that in those days under 
the roof of the Cearne we were very good friends you 
and I. 

It pleases me to think that on some far distant day, when 
you are as grizzled as I am now, you may in a pause of 
serious occupations take down this little book from the shelf 
and glancing through it give a kind smile to my memory. 

May the coming years bring you success in everything 
you undertake. 

Your sincere friend 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 



17 April 1909 

Thanks for the play 1 which reached me today and, as you 
may imagine, was read at once. 

It is magnificently suggestive to begin with in a gen- 
eral way; in its psychology, I mean. Though I detest the 
stage I have a theatrical imagination that's why perhaps 
I detest the stage that is the actors who mostly poor souls, 
have no imagination. And my theatrical imagination has 
been profoundly satisfied by the certainty of the effects 
all the effects of the atmosphere and of the passions; that 
sort of contentment the middle plays of Ibsen give one. 
Never a moment of doubt in acting the thing to oneself as 
the eye follows the lines a great testimony to the poetical 
truth and force of the work. 

At the end one wishes there were more of it. This my dear 
Edward I mean as criticism; but you will remember that 
this criticism may proceed from some defect of my theatrical 
imagination; which I know I have, without being certain of 
its soundness or of its completeness, however. It is as if 
the subject had been treated too summarily. A sort of artis- 
tic uneasiness remains, very faint indeed and yet too persist- 
ent (I've been living exclusively with the play for the last 
8 hours) not to be mentioned from me to you. I have been 
asking myself: What is it? One seems to feel that you held 
your hand yet on the re-reading that impression vanishes. 
There is an exactness, a clearness which leave nothing to lay 

i The Feud. A Play in Three Acts, by Edward Garnett. A. H. Bullen, 1909. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

hold of. No! decidedly the defect is in me. The more one 
examines the mechanism and the expression the more the 
conviction grows upon one that a family drama of the 
"gentry" in 13th Century Iceland could not have been ren- 
dered with more precision or sentiment and truthfulness of 

I congratulate you upon your luck in the matter of your 
interpreters. Did you "produce" yourself? I'll try to drop 
in at the Mont Blanc on some not too distant Tuesday for 
a real talk with you. Meantime don't think me an insensi- 
ble fool, an irresponsive ass. I have responded indeed and 
feel very happy in the play but every one has a devil in 
him, you know. Mine makes me so ambitious for those that 
have my affection that in the end my affection won't be 
worth having. But enough of that. It was very dear and 
charitable of you to think of sending me a copy. Our best 
love to you all. Jessie begs to be specially remembered to 
your wife for whom you know she always had an instinctive 

Ever yours 




19 July '09 

It is a fact I had a most damnable go of gout which ab- 
solutely prevented me from getting the 8th inst. of Rems 1 
ready in time. But it was neither more nor less serious than 

Reminiscences English Review 1909. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

other attacks of the kind for the last 15 years. I suppose 
one of them will finally do for me. All the same I was 
vexed by that silly editorial note. There was no earthly 
reason for any note and if he had to do it, indisposition was 
a quite strong enough word for all practical, editorial pur- 

Thanks my dear Edward for your inquiry. How is it with 
you? I haven't either the time or the pluck to travel up to 
town. Rumor of the E R having been sold has reached me 

Did you review anywhere Masefield's latest book? If so 
I should like to see what you had to say of it. 

Jack's in London and has sent me his new play The Eldest 
Son. First rate quite. However you either have seen it 
or shall see it soon and a good lot might be said about it. 

Our dear love to you. Remember us affectionately to 
your wife. I hear David is preparing his exam the best 
of luck to himl 

Ever yours 


Capel House 
Nr Ashford 

22 Nov 1910 

It's ever so good of you to have sent me the Hogarth little 
book. 1 I knew practically nothing of the man. And I was 
glad to learn. 

1 Hogarth, by Edward Garnett. (The Popular Library of Art ) Duck- 
worth. 1910. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I have meditated over some of these small pages where 
indeed one finds more than what meets the eye. For your 
critical thought once started leads one to a return upon one- 

And after all Hogarth was a story teller, a critic of life; 
and thus every word of your appreciation seemed to have 
a double value: illuminative as to the subject searching 
as to the reader this reader. 

In addition you are so interesting all the time; it's surpris- 
ing how much characteristic suggestion you have packed 
into that small compass. But all your criticism that I ever 
heard or read is infinitely suggestive. I believe, my dear 
Edward, that if you started criticising the leg of a table you 
would end by getting home to our consciences I mean of 
us all who have, at least tried to do something with an honest 

Marwood gave me news of you some time ago and only 
last Sunday P. Gibbon reported having sighted you in Lon- 
don looking well. But all the same the days slip away. A 
sort of unholy spell keeps me chained to the desk. And for 
what? Either for nothing or for rather less than nothing. 

But it's a fact that the London Mag has accepted a story 1 
(longish) of mine which I have written since my illness. You 
can't say that I haven't "arrived." 

A good grip of your friendly hand if only on paper 
Ever yours 


1 A Smzle oj Fortune. 



Capel House. Orlestone. Nr Ashford. 

12 Jan. '11. 


I was glad to hear from you. Don't put off your prom- 
ised visit too long Yes it is a far cry from 1894 when this 
literary child was born to you. For you know you can't get 
out of it however you may regret it. You are responsible 
for my existence. 

Directly I get 3 installments or so of the novel 1 together 
I'll send them to you. My copy of proofs is uncorrected as 

Look here. The straight truth of it is that I am now writ- 
ing a silly story 2 (being near to the end of it) and as soon 
as I am done with the truck and have got over the disgust 
my writing leaves behind, I shall drop you a postcard asking 
for the play. I don't ask for it now because I know myself. 
I would look at it at once and I am not fit to look at any- 
thing at present. I am in that state that I would hit Venus 
of Milo on the nose if anybody showed her to me. I am not 
trying to be funny I assure you: this state of mind is as 
near as damn it to cutting one's throat. 

And so you've kept my letters! Have you! Ah my dear 
you'll never meet the man who wrote them again. I feel as 
if I had somehow smashed myself. But do come over and 

1 Under Western Eyes 

2 Freya of the Seven Isles. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

look at the pieces. The only thing you'll find uninjured will 
be my affection for you. 

Jessie sends her love to you all. Pray remember me to 
your wife and David as tenderly as they will let you. 

Yours ever 


Capel House, 
Nr. Ashford. 
[February, 1911.] 

A thousand apologies for delay. A fool girl mislaid the 
envelope and I was going to write you in despair when it 
turned up. 

Is what I have written sufficient? 1 If you had given me 
the slightest lead I would have done better. 
In haste. 

Ever yours, 


2 March 1911 

I got that infernal story out of the house this morning at 
last! Do send me your Joan and believe me if I say that I 
am asking for her at the earliest possible moment when I 
feel I can trust myself to read anything. 

There's nothing much to tell you. And if there were it 

1 Petition for a Civil List Pension for Mr W. H Davies, the poet. 

I associate myself with all my heart with the opinion that Mr W H 
Davies' poetical gift is of the rarest and its expression enriching our literature 
most deserving of recognition JOSEPH CONRAD. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

would be the old story. So to avoid monotony I take refuge 
in silence. 

I am expecting you here (we are) all the time you 
know! E ver vours 


[March, 1911] 

Phew! This is fine. 1 Just one word as the curtain falls 
for the last time Fine! 

How sternly imagined, how tenderly felt, how magnifi- 
cently conducted! I am glad I'll with your leave keep the 
MS for 3 days before F read it again. 

I wanted to give the very freshest, first impression just 
now, but won't say any more at present. 



[March 7, 1911.] 

Yes. The impression of the achievement remains, per- 
haps the stronger from the deep conviction of how incapable 
I would have been even to attempt that kind of work. Cre- 
ative? Well, yes. Your doubt on that point I can understand 
but for myself I have no doubt even after a long reflection. 
It is creative in the sense in which a mystery play is creative. 
The feeling that there is something in all this more subtle, 

1 The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc An Historical Play in Five Acts, by Edward 
Garnett. Sidgwich & Jackson. 1912 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

stronger and more poignant than the actual sensations and 
ideas expressed in the words and in the action abides with 
one all the time. No small triumph for you. For you must 
understand that I know nothing of Joan of Arc; that is no 
more than I learned of her as a boy. And as a matter of 
fact 99% of any audience assembled to see the play will 
know no more. Therefore you may look upon me as the 
stodgiest "bourgeois" in the stalls. The only difference is 
that the "bourgeois" likes the stage and I don't. But one 
cannot dislike an art so much without understanding some- 
thing of it if in only a prejudiced sort of way. And in this 
connection what strikes me is that the climax of the action 
(in fact the only action of the play strictly speaking) that 
recantation with its cause and effect is perhaps not suffi- 
ciently emphasized for the theatre. A supreme moment 
should be made to stand out supremely especially when as 
in this case it throws such a searching light on the spiritual 
situation which is the real subject of the play. It is the reve- 
lation of her incredible sufferings, the measure of her nature 
and the shape of her humanity. And yet this crisis is con- 
tained in one short scene. 

It is possible that I am wrong, over-anxious. But be- 
lieving as I do that the control of the public's (audience, 
readers) attention is in a sense the beginning and end of ar- 
tistic method I had to confess my uneasiness. You must 
forgive me. It is really because I do care for your work at 
least as much as I do for my own. I have told myself in- 
sistently that after all the subject is the Trial of Joan. But 
even then. . . . And don't forget my dear boy that from 
the nature of things such a subject cannot be developed. It 
can only be unrolled and it is unrolled with undoubted mas- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

tery with a relentless hand A great consecutive picture 
and yet it seems to me that in that one particular part there 
is something as it were blurred. 

I won't say any more just now except to express my 
admiration at the art with which you have differentiated all 
the churchmen. That's a feat! And it proves sufficiently 
the creative quality of your imagination. Very fine very 
fine indeed. You must come over soon so that we may have 
a talk. I am very lame again just now or I would try to get 
to you. Give our love to your wife and son. 

Yours ever 

PS What do you think of Jack's last? 

[March, 1911.] 

I send you Norman Douglas' book. 1 Can you do some- 
thing to give it a start? I understand that you liked what 
you had seen of his in the R. It is a serious matter for 
the poor fellow to get decent reviews and if you could give a 
lead? His opinions would make him acceptable for extra 
notice in Nation or any other liberal paper. I am so out of 
everything that I must appeal to you in this matter. And 
the man is worthy I think Yours ever 



[March, 1911.] 

You wont mind this pencil scrawl feels less formal. 

1 Syren Land } by Norman Douglas Dent. 1911 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Thanks infinitely for taking interest in Douglas. What- 
ever happens I am grateful to you for honouring so hand- 
somely this draft on your friendship. Sorry to learn that 
you have bad nights. They are the devil. 

I ask myself whether I have conveyed to you sufficiently 
my appreciation of the Jeanne d'Arc. When a thing hits me 
straight I can only just exclaim without phrases. It's easier 
to make phrases about things that hit and glance off, and 
as to things that miss me of which I only feel the wind so to 
speak, I could write politely by the yard of them. I also 
feel a kind of compunction for putting forward my view of 
the recantation episode. But I wanted to give you all my 
impression not in a critical spirit at all but as a matter of 

I am not at all sure that my feeling there was right. I 
build no great hopes on the H. T. 1 I met him once and was 
talked to by him in honeyed tones. He struck me as an 
arriviste pure and simple. But being a bitter and prejudiced 
person I may be wrong. In my character of a b and p per- 
son I mistrust likewise the public. Will they answer to the 
spiritual appeal by the play? 

You see my dear fellow the dtat d'ame capable of being 
moved by such a subject is not a common one. I don't mean 
to say that a crowd in the auditorium is incapable of it, only 
that such a mood is a rare one everywhere. The pretty- 
pretty of Maeterlinck is much more their mark I mean the 
Pink Goose, or whatever kind of bird is being preserved at 
the Haymarket. 

That fact I think must be faced, but it's very probable 
that I make too much of it. The devil is never as black as 

1 Herbert Trench who had opened a season at the Haymarket Theatre. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

he is painted. I don't want you to think me presumptuous 
or mad. You know that it was from the discussion of the 
Tentation de St Antome that the idea of Mme Bovary 
sprang up in Flaubert's mind. A complete turn about. Why 
should you also not execute a change of front and take up a 
subject where your irony could find its opportunity, your 
wit an aim for its shafts? Why not write a play about the 
literary world which as far as I know has never yet been 
lighted by the masked glare of the footlights? Why not 
read up Scribe and Sardou (the two good mechanics) a little, 
and give us a play about Le Monde ou I' on Ecrit the world 
where they write! It would be fair game. And you seem to 
me the hunter pointed out by destiny. You have heard so 
many confidences, observed so many illusions, weaknesses 
and struggles by that particular world. You who have a 
sense of the comic which would be governed by complete 
comprehension and sympathy. 

Of course I don't mean anything like poor Gissing's Grub 
Street but really I need not have said that. 

The fable does not matter much. I don't think I would 
base it on the marital relations of the "world where they 
write." The efforts to found say an Academy of letters 
would do as the stuff on which you could embroider some 
gorgeous, grotesque and beautiful designs. For indeed it 
need not be all satire. You could speak the truth not only in 
jest but also in earnest. You could have a cut at the frauds 
but you could also strike a blow for the good cause. Of 
course poetical or rather imaginative realism should be the 
note. And who better fitted than you? I will say no more. 
Think of it dear Edward. There are moments when I suc- 
ceed in being wholly serious and this is one of them. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Hint to me something of your opinion of Jack's novel. 1 I 
wrote to him about it yesterday. 
Love from us both 

Yours ever 


Capel House 
Nr Ashford, 


18 July 1911 

It was good to see your handwriting again. When! oh 
when! shall we set eyes on each other? We are not growing 

Glad you have got the Century. 2 Gibbon told me some 
time ago that there was something of the sort in the wind. 
That talented buccaneer has come down to Dymchurch for 
six weeks and I expect to see him pretty frequently. 

No my dear boy. I haven't a single thing to send you. 
Moreover I don't think the Century shop wants me at all. 
If I am not mistaken they have refused in March last a very 
tolerable long-short story of mine. But I may be mistaken. 
It might have been Scribner's. I am very hazy as to what 
happens to my work after I've sent it out of the house with 
a curse. I am now pelting along with a novel (God save the 
mark) for the New York Herald. It's being made to mea- 
sure no less than 90,000 words and I won't let you know 

1 The Patrician, by John Galsworthy Heinemann 1911 

2 E G. advised the Century Company for a year as to English authors' 
contributions. All his suggestions were negatived by the Editors. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

what I think of it. I only mention it at all so that you should 
know that I am not likely to do any short stories, either de- 
cent or indecent, for some months to come. 

How are you? Gibbon gave me a tolerably good report of 
you some time ago. I am immensely excited about your 
wife's trans: of Dostoiewski. Give her my most respectful 
regards and a greeting to David from one of his oldest 

Yours ever 


July 29 11 

Pinker writes he has sent you Freya to look at. so it can't 
be the Century which has refused same in April last. It 
must have been Scribners on the ground that: "its over- 
powering gloom makes it impossible for serialisation." All 
I can say is that I hope you won't be overpowered by the 
"gloom" to the point of swallowing a dose of prussic acid 
after reading the copy. Let me entreat you to bear up to 
re-act to be a man! And do write to me so that I know 
you are still alive after the terrific experience which, I un- 
derstand, has nearly killed the Scribner's man. 

Seriously my dear fellow, I've tried to do a magazine-ish 
thing with some decency. Not a very high purpose; yet it 
seems I've failed even in that! All this is very comical if 
not exactly amusing. 

I wanted P to send the story to B'wood. After all the 
"Maga" public was yet the one to catch on best to my stuff. 
I suppose I am myself a "horrible bourgeois" at bottom. 
But all the same it only shows your almost devilish (or dia- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

bolic?) cleverness; for it is you and no other who turned 
Karain (you remember?) on to Maga so many years ago 
with inspired judgment. 

If only for the sake of old days don't bring your heaviest 
guns against the thing. It's but tissue-paper after all. 
Love from us all. 

Yours ever 


August 4 1911 

I have expressed to Pinker my view of his sending to you 
a story 1 rejected already by the Century. It was not fair 
either to you or me. As to faking a "sunny" ending to my 
story I would see all the American Magazines and all the 
American Editors damned in heaps before lifting my pen for 
that task. I have never been particularly anxious to rub 
shoulders with the piffle they print with touching consistency 
from year's end to year's end. 

The story itself , I suppose, is not "done" since it has failed 
to convince you. It is the story of the Costa Rica which was 
not more than five years old when I was in Singapore. The 
man's name was Sutton. He died in just that way but I 
don't think he died of Slav temperament. He was just 
about to go home to marry a girl (of whom he used to talk 
to everybody and anybody) and bring her out there when 
his ship was run on a reef by the commander of a Dutch 
gun-boat whom he had managed to offend in some way. He 
haunted the beach in Macassar for months and lies buried 
in the fort there. 

1 Freya of the Seven Isles. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Only 18 months ago Charles Harris, master and owner 
of the Araby Maid island-trader, came to see me in Alding- 
ton. He was in England to see his people who farm in 
Somersetshire. He said to me: "We are all reading your 
books out there." We had a long talk about men and things 
of the Archipelago. He said: "You ought to write the story 
of the Costa Rica. There's a good many of us left yet who 
remember Sutton." And I said I would, before long. 

That's how Freya came to be written. But of course 
facts are nothing unless they are made credible and it is 
there that I have failed. 

Yours ever 


Capel House, 
Nr Ashford 

200ct 1911 

I don't understand your picturesque allusions to packing 
spinach into the saucepan and the hell broth that's supposed 
to be the result of that culinary operation. There's just 
about as much or as little hatred in this book 1 as in the 
Outcast of the Islands for instance. Subjects lay about for 
anybody to pick up. I have picked up this one. And that's 
all there is to it. I don't expect you will believe me. You 
are so russianised my dear that you don't know the truth 
when you see it unless it smells of cabbage-soup when it at 
once secures your profoundest respect I suppose one must 
make allowances for your position of Russian Embassador to 

1 Under Western Eyes 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

the Republic of Letters. Official pronouncements ought to 
be taken with a grain of salt and that is how I shall take 
your article in the Nation which I hope to see tomorrow 
evening when the carrier comes back from Ashford. But it 
is hard after lavishing a "wealth of tenderness" on Tekla 
and Sophia, to be charged with the rather low trick of put- 
ting one's hate into a novel. If you seriously think that I 
have done that then my dear fellow let me tell you that you 
don't know what the accent of hate is. Is it possible that 
you haven't seen that in this book I am concerned with noth- 
ing but ideas, to the exclusion of everything else, with no 
arriere pensee of any kind. Or are you like the Italians (and 
most women) incapable of conceiving that anybody ever 
should speak with perfect detachment, without some subtle 
hidden purpose, for the sake of what is said, with no desire 
of gratifying some small personal spite or vanity. 

As to discussing Russia it's the most chimeric of enter- 
prises since it is there for anyone to look at. c 'La Russie 
c'est le neant" Prince Bismarck said in 1864 and forthwith 
proceeded to prove it by 20 years of the most contemptuous 
policy towards that "Great Power." C'est le neant. Any- 
body with eyes can see it. 

And anyhow if hatred there were it would be too big a 
thing to be put into a 6/- novel. This too might have oc- 
curred to you, if you had condescended to look beyond the 
literary horizon where all things sacred and profane are 
turned into copy. 

Yours ever 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Capel House, 
Nr. Ashford. 

20 Oct. 1911. 

You are a good critic. That girl does not move. No ex- 
cuse can be offered for such a defect but there is an expla- 
nation. I wanted a pivot for the action to turn on. And I 
had to be very careful because if I had allowed myself to 
make more of her she would have killed the artistic purpose 
of the book: the development of a single mood. It isn't that 
I was afraid or ignorant of her possibilities. Indeed they 
were very tempting. But it had to be a performance on one 
string. It had to be. You may think such self-imposed 
limitation a very stupid thing. But something of the kind 
must be done or else novel-writing becomes a mere debauch 
of the imagination. No doubt if I had taken another line 
the book would have been richer. But what I aimed at this 
time was an effect of virtuosity before anything else. Still 
I need not have made Miss Haldin a mere peg as I am sorry 
to admit she is. Result of over caution. 

Your kind appreciation of the book gives me great pleas- 
ure and I am glad you think it is true as ( ? far as it) goes. 
I am quite aware it does not go very far. But the fact is 
that I know extremely little of Russians. Practically noth- 
ing. In Poland we have nothing to do with them. One 
knows they are there. And that's disagreeable enough. In 
exile the contact is even slighter if possible if more unavoid- 
able. I crossed the Russian frontier at the age of ten. Not 
having been to school then I never knew Russian. I could 
not tell a Little Russian from a Great Russian to save my 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

life. In the book as you must have seen I am exclusively 
concerned with ideas. 

Yes. I had a letter and some books from Mr. Lutoslaw- 
ski. I ought to have written to him before tho' really and 
truly I don't know what he wants with me. I don't under- 
stand him in the least. His illumination seems to me a very 
naive and uninteresting thing. Does he imagine I am likely 
to become his disciple? He worries and bores me. But I 
won't tell him that when I write (as I must in common de- 
cency) because I believe he is a good man though con- 
foundedly inquisitive. 

We had a letter from Elsie-the other day. She seems quite 
well now. We don't see much of her because of the distance. 
But we had Xna 1 staying with us for a few days during the 

Thanks once more for your friendly and every interesting 
letter. I assure you I am very sensible to all the kind things 
you say of my work. Believe me with great regard, 
Yours faithfully 


[December, 1911.] 

I hadn't turned over the third page 2 when I let out a 
whistle of respectful admiration. Frankly I never suspected 
in Mr Byrne that power of "haut comique." For it is that 
the comic just trembling on the verge of poignancy. And 

1 Christina Hueff er 

2 Lords and Masters, by James Byrne. [Edward Gamett.l Sidgwich & 
Jackson. 1911. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

the wit: not the wit of repartee (which always gets on my 
nerves in a play) but the whole conception of the play being 
so witty! I have had there a most delightful surprise going 
on from page to page from act to act a true effect of art 
for never, not for a single moment, has my conviction wav- 
ered. After the first half of the first act I went on with a 
sense of secure anticipation without a check. 

I admire the exposition of the first act and the inventive- 
ness of the last. The second in its way is perfect. I don't 
know if the third act does not suffer from a certain effect of 
summarmess. Mind I don't mean to say that there is 
anything in it that isn't triumphantly right in the lightness 
of touch and truth of feeling. No. One can question noth- 
ing; but one wonders if one more turn of screw or even 
half a turn something more from Catherine something in 
the nature of a cri- de coeur, a glimpse of humanity under 
her admirably rendered feminity would not give the supreme 
touch of poignancy to that creation of "grand comique." 
For, obviously, she is human. 

But I may be wrong. Perhaps anything more would have 
been out of tone. 

But anyhow to the very end the impression of the first- 
ratedness of the work persists, and survives a critical medi- 

Thanks my dear fellow for sending me the little book. I 
can hardly tell you how pleased I am with it: the deft touch, 
the perfect mastery of intention, the felicity of phrase (not 
picturesqueness) disclosing character (the amazingly true 
mother-in-law) I have taken it all in and cherish it greatly. 
Oh it is good! Well. 

Our dear love and tenderest wishes to you three. Tell me 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

something of David when you write next. I expect I shall 
come to town in January and shall invade you at Duck- 
worths for a long talk. 

Yours ever. With affectionate exultation in Mr Byrne's 


28 Dec. '11 

On re-reading and thinking it out I see that the 3d act is 
not summary. It is rapid only for only think how much 
happens in it in comparison with the first two. I mean here 
the mere comings and goings. It is indeed an excellent act, 
cleverly invented and finely imagined. The animation of it 
is quite extraordinary (given the situation) and I envy you 
the power which could conceive and create all the successive 
"scenes" of (in the French sense). 

But it is the exposition of the first and the development 
of the third act which strike me as masterly. If I don't go 
into special ecstacies over the mother it is simply because I 
can see how fine the others are: the husband, the truly 
marvelously rendered friend how good that incidental fig- 
ure is, how tactfully done! and the flawless Milly. Don't 
be annoyed at my enthusiasm. It is perfectly sincere if art- 
less and perhaps a bit egotistic. I always thought you 
could do that sort of thing if you only tried. And to see my 
secret opinion so triumphantly vindicated is very delightful. 

Meditating over the play in the light of your letter I feel 
that you want only (if you would condescend) to adopt 
some sort of fable, story, anecdote (the commonest the bet- 
ter) to serve as a vehicle for your wit and psychology, in 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

order to get hold of success in the popular way. It would no 
doubt be a concession to the depraved beast but I question 
whether one does not owe such a concession to one's own 
gift. I venture to speak like this my dearest Edward be- 
cause in all soberness I am very much impressed by the 
play. You won't take it ill, because I don't presume to offer 
advice; I am expressing to you my feeling which is the sort 
of thing for which one is not responsible. It seems to me I 
could back it up with arguments but enough for this time. 
Also of Catherine one can better talk than write. Don't 
imagine I am not alive to her excellence. Rather! But of 
that some other time. Love from us all 

Yours ever 


P S Thanks for your invitation dear boy. I am very much 
interested by the little you tell me of David. By the bye: 
Marwood tells me he has asked you to run down here, but 
when I saw him yesterday he said he had no answer from 
you yet. Sacrifice a couple of days give him one, and give 
one to us. Anyhow I shall certainly make a dash to town 
before long just to see you. But there is a novel in the way. 
The last 2,000 words! Horrors! 



Capel House 
Nr Ashford 

27 Jan 12 

Just a word to tell you your good long letter reached me 
this morning. You know I have always "looked up to you" 
and shall always do so as long as this hand holds the pen, 
that pen which you have put into it and no one and nothing 
else. I am infinitely grateful to you for this hour, stolen 
from your weariness to talk to me in that brotherly way 
about the little volume. 

I am much relieved by your approval of these chance- 
born pages. 1 It is our Olympian F.M.H. 2 who fairly worried 
me into beginning them you know. 

For a long time I hesitated as to letting them go out in 
book form and if it had not been that I wanted the sixty 
pounds, Nash has advanced me for them, to send B to a 
bigger school, they should have remained unprinted yet. 
Still I felt that what was there formed a whole in itself. And 
since I see that you seem to think so I feel much comforted 
and cheered. I am within a few pages of the end of a novel 3 
and daren't leave my table to run over and shake your friend- 
ly (and so often guiding) hand. But I shall be free soon. 


2 Ford Madox Hueffer. 
8 Chance. 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Yes my dear Edward, you have been the true knight-errant 
of oppressed letters in all these years we have known each 
other. More power to your trusty sword-hand till it's too 
dark to fight any more Mind I have booked that promise 
for March, and you shall be dunned mercilessly till you re- 
deem it. 

Yours ever 


Capel House, 
Nr Ashford. 

27 May '12 

I do hope you are not too disgusted with me for not thank- 
ing you for the "Karamazov" x before. It was very good of 
you to remember me; and of course I was extremely inter- 
ested. But it's an impossible lump of valuable matter. It's 
terrifically bad and impressive and exasperating. Moreover, 
I don't know what D stands for or reveals, but I do know 
that he is too Russian for me. It sounds to me like some 
fierce mouthings from prehistoric ages. I understand the 
Russians have just 'discovered' him. I wish them joy. 

Of course your wife's translation is wonderful. One al- 
most breaks one's heart merely thinking of it. What cour- 
age 1 What perseverance ! What talent of interpretation 
let us say. The word 'translation' does not apply to your 
wife's achievements. But indeed the man's art does not de- 
serve this good fortune. Turgeniev (and perhaps Tolstoi) 

1 The Brothers Karamazov. Translated from the Russian of Fedor Dos- 
toievsky By Constance Garnett. Hememann 1912. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

are the only two really worthy of her. Give her please my 
awestruck and admiring love. One can be nothing less but 
infinitely grateful to her whatever one may think of or feel 
about D. himself. 

Tell me, when you have a moment to spare, what sort of 
reception had your Spanish play. 1 I reckon it is due for 
performance from what you told me. I haven't seen any 
papers for a week. I am trying to start a long short story 
and these beastly things put me off completely. I know that 
there is another strike and that's all. But that sort of thing 
is growing monotonous, and having no particular respect for 
either of the three parties I am not exciting myself over the 
game unduly. 

Yours ever 


16 Oct. 12. 

Thanks for your letter. You know my dear boy I send 
you my books 2 because of my great affection for you to 
read when you have time and either to write of them or not 
as the spirit moves you and circumstances permit. I mean 
publicly. To me personally I know you will speak when 
the times comes. I have accustomed myself to look upon it 
as a privilege of which nothing conceivable to my mind can 
deprive me now. But please don't let that right of mine in- 
terfere with your work or even with your leisure. I can 

1 The Spanish Lovers Adapted from La Celestina By Edward Garnett 
Little Theatre June, 1912 

2 'Twnt Land and Sea 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Would Curie come to see me? That criticism is something 
and no mistake. All that went before seems mere verbiage 
in comparison. I am exceedingly pleased. Give him my 
friendly greeting Of course I have had his book but un- 
less civil nothings it is very difficult to write to an author 
whom one does not know. I am now unfit for the company 
of my kind, crabbed and snarly and stupid with this beastly 
gout attack which hangs on and on. But I shall ask him 
down here soon. Send me his address and just tell me 
whether he can leave London on week days or is Sunday 
the only convenient time for him. 

Our love to you all. 

Yours ever 


5 Nov. '12 

Pardon this scrap of paper. I ought to have thanked you 
before for the Jeanne d'Arc book. My admiration for that 
piece of your work has always been complex for the won- 
derful feeling it conveys and for the almost more wonderful 
manner in which it is done. As to the courage of tackling 
such a killing subject my admiration for it has no bounds. 
It requires a spiritual resolution and a firmness of mind! for, 
look you in the way you took hold of it you could not ex- 
pect any help from any tricks or subterfuges charlatanism 
in short of the kind even the sincerest artists use sometimes. 
No. There was no room left for that in your scheme. And 
the whole thing comes off as sincere as a fine piece of 
music, (not Debussy's) 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Thanks for your letter on the 3 tales 1 very much of 
sorts. I daresay Freya is pretty rotten. On the other hand 
the Secret Sharer, between you and me, is it. Eh? No 
damned tricks with girls there. Eh? Every word fits and 
there's not a single uncertain note. Luck my boy. Pure 
luck. I knew you would spot the thing at sight. But I re- 
peat: mere luck. 

Why don't you come and pat me on the head, or hit me, 
or assert your indubitable paternity in some way. You'll 
find me most dutiful. 

Do! Our love to you all. Yours ever 


PS I have been worried by a sort of languid gout attack 
which has lasted for 3 weeks or more now. 

Capel House, 
Nr Ashford. 

28 Jan '14 

I couldn't thank you sooner for your good letter because 
I was physically and mentally disabled by gout. Yesterday 
your review 2 in the Nation came through the press cutting 

Thank you my 'dear fellow for all the appreciative things 
you say in public and in private. As to the exceptions you 
take I have always had the feeling that your criticism must 
be right. No doubt I could argue a point or two and in- 
tend to do so when we have the happiness to see you here. 

1 'Twixi Land and. Sea 

2 Of Chance 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

For the rest all I can tell you is that the pleasure of being 
so well understood (both as to method and intention) is the 
greater because it is so rare. In fact, there's no one who can 
see inside my work as you can. And if at the same time you 
can here and there see through it well I suppose I must put 
up with being found out in my innocent malpractices. In 
fact my dear Edward my affection for you is so great that it 
was a sort of pleasure to see you put your unerring finger 
on the soft spot at the end of part I. Perfectly rotten of 
course; but it's difficult to keep honest with a knife at one's 
throat you know. Well more when we meet for I wont 
let you forget your promise to come here. Give my love to 
your wife and boy. 

Yours ever 


Capel House, 
Nr Ashford, 

Monday 23 February [1914.] 

You have succeeded so well in effacing your personality 
in that little book 1 (and very interesting it is too) that but 
for an occasional turn of phrase I even II can't see you 
there at all. 

Dislike as definition of my attitude to Tols: is but a 
rough and approximate term. I judge him not for this 
reason. That his anti-sensualism is suspect to me. In that 
matter (which is not worth the fuss which is made about it) 
the pros and the antis seem to me tarred with the same brush. 

1 Tolstoy A Study Constable & Co 1914. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Moreover the base from which he starts Christianity is 
distasteful to me. I am not blind to its services but the 
absurd oriental fable from which it starts irritates me. 
Great, improving, softening, compassionate it may be but it 
has lent itself with amazing facility to cruel distortion and is 
the only religion which, with its impossible standards, has 
brought an infinity of anguish to innumerable souls on this 

However I don't suppose these views of mine can interest 
you and I only meant to send you a word of thanks. Why 
I should fly out like this on Xtianity which has given to man- 
kind the beautiful Xmas pudding I don't know, unless that, 
like some good dogs, I get snappish as I grow old. 

Bear in mind your promise! Our dear love to you and 

Yours ever 


Dost: "Adolescent" going off same post to Cearne. I 
missed this evening's mail but I hope you will get this to- 
morrow (Tues) about 4 o'clock in town. 



The Norfolk Hotel, 

Surrey Street, 
Strand, W.C. 
5th March 1915. 

... I went to Duckworth's office on Tuesday to un- 
earth you, promising myself to see something of you after 
all these days. They simply said you weren't coming that 
day. We are going home tomorrow and shall wait impa- 
tiently for the word announcing your arrival. 

I am more than prepared to hear (and understand) what 
you have to say of the Planter. 1 Even as I wrote I felt the 
discord, and was aware of your figure in the background. I 
shall listen with filial piety to all you have to say. Don't 
prolong the suspense unduly. Our dear love to your wife 
and yourself. 

Yours ever 


Courtney in the Daily Telegraph scolded me like a wet 

[April 13, 1916] 

I answered your postcard from Italy ages ago but only 
heard lately that you were back in London. On our return 

1 The Planter of Malta. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

from Poland in Nov. '14, 1 went straight to Duckworth. You 
weren't there but I understood that you had not broken 
your connection. I am very sorry to hear you are no longer 
reading for him. 

Entre-nous I don't know much, I am sorry to say, of 
E. T.'s 1 work; so I am glad of the lead you've given me. If 
the letter is not exactly what it should be I'll write another. 

I've been constantly ailing for more than a year. The 
gout now gets into the wrists which is damnable and also 
causes intestinal troubles frequently. I find work, properly 
speaking, impossible. Jessie too ha.s not the health she had. 
I am rather worried about her. Borys with his section at- 
tached to a heavy battery, is somewhere near Armentieres, 
well and happy. 

Yours always 


23 July '16 

I answer at once to say that you have omitted to enclose 
the words your wife wishes me to transliterate into Polish. 
It'll be very simple to do as you say; but the request, till 
we know how it was brought about, does seem rather mys- 

Since last February I have been on the mend physically. 
Mentally the difficulty to tackle any kind of writing work 
is as bad as ever: that is almost paralysing. Jessie also is 
better. She sends her love. 

John remains slender and grows longer every day. 

Borys is with the guns, as he has been ever since he 

1 Edward Thomas 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

landed in France last Jan: and was moved at once to Ar- 
mentieres sector. Afterwards they were shifted up towards 
Ypres. He is now personally attached to the heavy artillery 
of the III Corps. 40th siege battery and I imagine on the 
Somme or thereabouts. We had a field post-card this morn- 
ing dated the 21st. 

I knew you were no longer reading for Duck'th. What's 
the matter with that shop? Other pub ers seem to be doing 
well enough. I was no end sorry to hear the connection was 
broken though I know well my dear Edward that it wasn't 
a bed of roses for you. But still . . . ! 

Have you seen a small book on me written by Walpole? 
I haven't, of course and I've also refrained from looking at 
the reviews of same. Nothing seems to matter much now. 

Ever yours 


[May, 1917.] 

The trouble is that I too don't know Russian; I don't 
even know the alphabet The truth of the matter is that it 
is you who have opened my eyes to the value and the quality 
of Turgeniev. As a boy I remember reading Smoke in a 
Polish translation (a feuilleton of some newspaper) and the 
Gentlefolks in French. I liked those things purely by in- 
stinct (a very sound ground but not starting point for criti- 
cism) with which the consciousness of literary perfection had 
absolutely nothing to do. You opened my mind first to the 
appreciation of the art. For the rest Turgeniev for me is 
Constance Garnett and Constance Garnett is Turgeniev. 
She has done that marvellous thing of placing the man's 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

work inside English literature and it is there that I see it 
or rather that I feel it. 

Upon the whole I don't see it. If I did see I could talk 
about it, perhaps to some purpose. As it is my dear I 
wouldn't know how to begin. 

As far as I know you are the only man who had seen T 
not only in his relation to mankind but in his relation to 
Russia. And he is great in both. But to be so great and at 
the same time so fine is fatal to an artist as to any other 
man for that matter. It isn't Dostoiewski the grimacing 
haunted creature who is under a curse; it is Turgeniev. 
Every gift has been heaped on his cradle. Absolute sanity 
and the deepest sensibility, the clearest vision and the most 
exquisite responsiveness, penetrating insight for the signifi- 
cant, for the essential in human life and in the visible world, 
the clearest mind, the warmest heart, the largest sympathy 
and all that in perfect measure! There's enough there to 
ruin any writer. For you know my dear Edward that if 
you and I were to catch Antinous and exhibit him in a 
booth of the world's fair, swearing that his life was as per- 
fect as his form, we wouldn't get one per cent of the crowd 
struggling next door to catch the sight of the double-headed 
Nightingale or of some weak-kneed giant grinning through 
a collar. 

I am like you my dear fellow; broken up and broken in 
two disconnected. Impossible to start myself going, im- 
possible to concentrate to any good purpose. It is the war 
perhaps? Or the end of Conrad simply? I suppose one 
must end someday, somehow. Mere decency requires it. 

But it is very frightful or frightening. I think the last, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

No my dear fellow. I don't think the short book 1 "un- 
worthy." It's dedicated to the boy. I got the notion into 
my head you were in Italy. Your copy is here and I am 
sending it to you now. Of course it's nothing of importance. 
I wonder what is? I mean of what I have done. 

I didn't see the Nation's review. I knew it was not writ- 
ten by you being under the impression that you did cut lose 
from literature (for a time) and were not in England. 

To be frank I don't want to appear as qualified to speak 
on things Russian. It wouldn't be true. I admire Turgeniev 
but in truth Russia was for him no more than the canvas for 
the painter. If his people had all lived in the moon he would 
have been just as great an artist. They are very much like 
Shakespeare's Italians. One doesn't think of it. 

But my dear Edward if you say definitely I've to do it 
well I'll try. I don't promise to bring it off tho' I As I've 
told you I don't seem to be able to get hold of anything. The 
Shadow Line was finished in Jan 'IS. Since then I just 
wrote two short stories. Say 12,000 words. I have destroyed 
a few pages. Very few. 

This is the true state of affairs. And it's getting very 
serious for me too. 

I've been gouty and almost continuously laid up since 
February. I've just got up after the last bout. 

Perhaps if you would come down and talk a little you 
could wake me up. Who knows? For indeed, my dear, to 
refuse anything of the kind to you seems intolerable. 

Give it a trial. Jessie backs this suggestion with all the 
force of her affection for you. I will say nothing of mine. 

1 The Shadow Line. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

You either believe in it or you don't. I have sometimes 
wondered . . . 

Ever yours 


Capel House 
Nr Ashford 
[May, 1917 ] 

We are very glad to hear you are coming, to stay with us, 
on Monday The station is Hamstreet and the tram ar- 
rives about 1.1 S. You'll have to change on Ashford Junc- 

I expect to have something roughed out for you to see by 
that time. I think to write it as if to you personally would 
be the easiest for me and perhaps the most effective. 

I am looking up your marvellous prefaces today. They 
are great. 

Yours ever 

Jessie's love. 

[May, 1917.] 

Thanks for your letter. There is no note of irony in it 
and I don't believe you wanted to put it in in this case. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I didn't want my scrawl 1 back. I really thought you told 
me to send it on. Why didn't you light the domestic fire 
with it? P will have a clean copy made for me too from the 
corrected type. 

Awfully good of you to send me the portrait of M. L. 2 I 
think she will be It if she only cares for the part. Am writ- 
ing to Irving today. 

Letter to W de la M goes this post. Seriously my dear 
fellow it was comforting and warming to have you here, all 
to myself, and laugh, and ironise, and squabble with you as 
in the days when the wine was still red and women more than 
a mere memory of smouldering furies (of all sorts) and 
diabolic eccentricities. . . . 

The loftiness of your sentiments and the austerity of your 
demeanour intimidated me. Even now during your visit I 
wanted once to be impertinent to you and simply couldn't 
do it. The Prestige! Your undying prestige 1 It's true 
that I managed to get furious with you for about 7^2 sec- 
onds, but that, really, was a sort of inverted tribute. If you 
think there are many men for whose words I care enough to 
get furious with them you are mistaken. There is in fact 
only one yourself. For contempt at a certain temperature 
may resemble fury. But you get the genuine article. The 
rest of mankind may flatter itself . . . Jessie and John send 
their love. Ever yours 


i l may note here that Conrad's Preface to Turgenev A Study, ends in 
the original MS differently from the printed version It runs thus. "Some 
weak-kneed giant with a meaningless pathos, maybe, that hint of aimless, 
mysterious suffering exhibited for its own sake as it were " The printed ver- 
sion ends with a phrase taken from the letter above. E G 

2 Mona Limerick, the actress whom I suggested might play the part of 
Winnie Verlock. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Capel House, 
Nr Ashford. 

2 7 Oct. '17 

I asked Jessie to drop you a line on receipt of the book 1 
which was delayed somehow. 

I got back home last night, dead lame, as usual, after an 
excursion. While away I saw the Outlook article which in 
its prosy way seemed to me good. 

Your opening pages are excellent, excellent! I was much 
delighted with your masterly thrusts at all that thick-headed 
crowd. As to the rest of the book you know that I do know 
it well. I re-read your prefaces often. You have fused them 
together with great skill and judgment and I suppose you 
had to do that; but for my part I regret every word left out 
no doubt wisely, but still 

Do remember us affectionately to your wife. I suppose 
D[avid] doesn't remember those two figures from the im- 
memorial past when he was five or thereabouts and sailed 
in an (iron?) tub with me. Those were good times! These 
Ghosts send a warm greeting to him. Ever yours 


PS. [Borys] was here for 10 days about a month ago. 
He's just got his second star after 18 months at the front. 
He was recommended for promotion after the Somme push 
but those things are slow in coming. He enquired affec- 
tionately after you and so did Hope when he was here last 

Jessie's love. She's laid up with the knee. 

1 Turgenev A Study, by Edward Garnett Collins'. 1917. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[December 1917.] 

Will you come early and spend the first evening of 1918 
with us (Tuesday)? No need to answer this unless you 
can't come. 

My heart failed me at the last moment when on the point 
of sending you my MS. 1 But don't flatter yourself. It was 
the Post Office (in the holiday rush) that I was afraid to 
trust If that copy had gone astray it would have been a 
disaster as there is no other yet. 

It's here provisionally corrected waiting for you. 
Do try to come. 
All our loves 

Yours ever 


If we don't hear by Tuesday mid-day we shall expect you 
for supper according to precedent 

6 Jan 1918 

Will you come on Friday or any day before Fri: dropping 
me a line to that effect? 

I've an adce copy of the Nostromo re-issue for you here. 
Shall I keep it till you come? 

I am still a prisoner, lame, not a little sick of it. I've been 
working however at the rate of four of my pages per day 
but without pleasure and only feeling now and then in touch 
with my subject. 

1 for got to give you the pages last time. I shall have 

1 The first chapters of The Arrow of Gold 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

another copy made and then I'll be able to trust the post. 
Now I am "afeared." 
Jessie's love. 

Yours ever 


Have you been doing anything? 

[January 9, 1918.] 

This is to warn you that H. W. will turn up to supper on 
Friday. If you prefer to have your old J. C. all to yourself 
come tomorrow, Thursday. If we don't see you by a quar- 
ter past seven we will conclude that you have decided to put 
up with the presence of H. W. at the weekly symposium. 

Yours ever 


PS It was impossible to keep him out on the Friday. Am 

31 January 1918 

It's perfectly ridiculous, but as you insisted on it, you are 
hereby assured that Mr and Mrs J. Conrad are expecting 
you tomorrow evening at the usual time. 

Do come my dear fellow. The days are running out and 
I am anxious to learn of all the ways and means of "offend- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ing your taste" 1 so as to make my last novel as perfect in 
perversity as possible. 
Our love 

Yours ever 


Capel House, 
Nr Ashford. 
March 2 7th 1918 

Our warmest thanks for your brotherly sympathy with 
our natural anxiety about the boy. He is right in the thick 
of things, for at the beginning of this attack he was only 
about 12 miles from St. Quentin. This morning we had a 
field p.c. dated the 24th. 

Yes. Jack's testimonial, if he would give you one, would 
be trustfully accepted by the more or less intelligent mass. 
As to some Big Pot, you know my dear fellow that I have 
no more notion of them than of Big Tango Dancers of the 
day; so I can't suggest anyone who might serve. I would 
love to see the whole set of Nineteen, 2 but not to make any 
suggestions For the pleasure. For the aesthetic appeal, 
and to see its whole effect. 

To throw a rope round the whole thing [the War] is 
rather a good idea, but even as to this I can't make a sug- 

1 This refers to some remark of mine about a passage in the first chapters 
of The Arrow of Gold I had strongly advised Conrad to go forward with 
the novel, and gave him my critical reasons He declared then that he had 
determined to abide by my advice and would have abandoned the book had 
my verdict been unfavorable 

2 Satires on the War by E G published subsequently in collected form, 
Pupa's War The Herald Office. 1Q19 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

gestion. I can't think consecutively and the few distressed 
thoughts that are knocking about in my head I am totally 
unable to put into words. It's a most distressing and de- 
pressing state to be in. One marches staggering along the 
very edge of despair hour after hour, day after day, feeling 
that one will never get anywhere. 

Ever affectionately yours 

Jessie's love. She will be writing to you presently. 

Capel House, 
Nr Ashford, 


May 16th. 1918 

You are quite right in thinking that I know nothing of 
those people of whom you speak. I don't even know their 
names. The one or two I have come in contact with must 
have carried away the very worst impression of my irrever- 
ent attitude and my sceptical state of mind. Like the rest 
of us poor mortals they resent the slightest independence of 
opinion and dislike those who do not swallow them whole. 
As to any magnanimity of conduct that is a thing almost in- 
conceivable to their minds and truly abhorrent to their pru- 

Since leaving town I haven't been able to get hold of the 
young man Roberts, whom I suppose you mean. He didn't 
answer our letters inviting him here, addressed to the Auto- 
mobile Club. He may be either ill or gone away or in some 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

other manner out of reach; but we shall make it our busi- 
ness to discover his private address from Mrs Willard who 
has introduced him to us. She too may be out of town, and 
In any case she is not very quick in answering letters, but 
Jessie will write to her today. 

I return to you the type and the proof which you have 
sent me. The "English Review" thing 1 is wonderfully done 
and, of course, from a certain point of view it is absolutely 
unfair, as you know well yourself. Truth has not only been 
heard, it has even been chewed over and over again, and its 
true flavour has sunk into the very soul of the people. It is 
a bitter flavour but bitterness is the very condition of human 
existence, and mankind generally is neither guilty nor inno- 
cent. It simply is. That is misfortune enough. Men die 
and suffer for their convictions and how those convictions 
are arrived at doesn't matter a bit. That's why, my dear 
fellow, satire seems to me a vain use of intelligence, and in- 
telligence itself a thing of no great account except for us to 
torment ourselves with. For directly you begin to use it the 
questions of right and wrong arise and these are things of 
the air with no connection whatever with the fundamental 
realities of life. Whereas in the region of feeling there is 
nothing of the kind. Feelings are, and in submitting to them 
we can avoid neither death nor suffering which are our 
common lot, but we can bear them in peace. The Edward 
Grey in Paris article 2 is very cleverly done. It is mordant, 
it is witty. But the greater the evidence of your extraordi- 
nary gifts in that way I will confess to you, my dearest fel- 
low, the sadder I feel, not in antagonism but in real sym- 

1 Truth's Welcome Home. A Satire. 

2 A Week In Paris Satire 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

pathy with you; with the deepest feeling for the inner 
tragedy of your existence because it is nothing less than 
that for you and for anybody who understands your tem- 
perament (inclined to remorseless analysis) and the ex- 
quisite sensitiveness of your mind. Send me the "All-High- 
est" 1 article as soon as you can. I shall not presume to 
advise any alterations because I am convinced that in such 
a matter nobody has any right to interfere with your mental 
and still less with your verbal inspiration which is simply 
admirable. And any way don't please be angry with me for 
writing as I do. 

Ever yours 


Jessie's love. Borys all well on the llth. Pardon type. 
Bad wrist. 

Capel House, 
Nr Ashford. 

22 Dec '18 

I was just going to drop you a line when your precious 
little note arrived. 

I missed you immensely my dear old friend during all 
these days. The resumption of our intercourse has been 
very precious to me. It was a great and comforting experi- 
ence to have your ever trusted and uncompromising soul 
come forward again from the unforgotten past and look 
closely at my work 2 with the old, old wonderful insight, 

1 The All-Highest Satire. 
~ The Rescue 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

with unimpaired wisdom and in unalterable friendship. 

I was sorely tempted to ask you to come down for a few 
days; but flu' was raging all over our country-side, the 
weather was atrocious, Jessie herself was struck heavily 
(with consequent bronchitis too) and one of our maids near- 
ly died in the house. Capel was not a healthy place to ask a 
friend to; while from a moral point of view it was a destable 
atmosphere thick with gloom which even your "powerful 
intellect" could not have resisted, I believe. How I survived 
I don't know. At any rate here I am still very feeble in 
every respect except in respect of my affection for you. 

I am afraid I'll have to bring poor Jessie again to London 
and deliver her once more to the surgeons. I am convinced 
that another carving is necessary before she ceases to be a 
cripple. The prospect of getting again in touch with you is 
a positive comfort and the only one at this juncture. Borys 
who is here on convalescent leave (after being gassed and 
wounded) asks to be remembered to you. John who is too 
much of a pagan to regard the amenities of a Christian fes- 
tival merely exclaimed at the mention of your name "I like 
him" and rushed off somewhere. We will leave it at that. 
But Jessie and I send you our deepest regard and love with 
all the best wishes proper to the season, which, somehow, 
doesn't feel so festive as one expected it to be. A cloud of 
unreality hangs about men, events, discourses, purposes. 
The very relief from long-drawn anguish is touched with 
mistrust as it were if not a delusion then at least a snare. 

Ever yours 




Durrani's Hotel, 

George St., 
Manchester Square. 

W. 1. 

Feb. 8th. 1919 

We arrived here yesterday ready for a long stay. But the 
surgeons are sending Jessie home for another two months 
when they hope the state of the knee will improve suffi- 
ciently to render another operation unnecessary. We shall 
be returning home probably on Thursday. I am still very 
lame after a very severe gout attack. Will you, my dear 
Edward, come and dine with me on Monday at the above 
address? Will you phone a message for me to the hotel; 
but if you cannot manage Monday then there are still Tues- 
day and Wednesday for your choice, for I will make no en- 
gagement of any sort in the evening. I want very much to 
see you. I didn't thank you for the book 1 by letter because 
I knew I was coming to town at once. You know my opin- 
ion of all the pieces composing it. I did admire them not 
only for the depth and feeling of the satire itself; but for the 
really marvelous visualising of actors and scenes which real- 
ly makes me think that you have cheated the world of a 
great novelist. Our dear love to you 

Ever yours 
J. C. 

i Papa's War. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Capel House 
Nr Ashford. 

12 March '19 

I ought to have written you days ago to thank you for 
your letters about the Resc: I am deeply touched, my dear 
old friend, by the fidelity of your memory recalling not only 
the year but the very episode on which the story was inter- 
rupted. 1 It has given me a strange impression of having 
lived always under your eye; of your thought never having 
abandoned me during all these years of your lonely wander- 
ings in the jungle of "literary matter" where you alone pur- 
sued the spirit with a magnificent disregard of the parasites 
that fed on your substance. 

Pray do by all means jot your remarks and criticisms on 
the margin of the L & W text. It will make these numbers 
precious to me. You know dear Edward that my first im- 
pulse (and also the last) was always to agree with your pro- 
nouncements. In this instance you give a voice to the vague 
uneasiness I always felt from the first while writing the 
Rescue And what you say is "la sainte verite." But I 
could offer thereon some explanations, which may be worth- 
less but are at least sincere. Only not on paper! Not just 

We are going for six months into a furnished house (end 
March). You must come and be friendly, good and wise to 
me for several days. It's a bigger place. You could get your 
moments of solitude. It would change you a little from your 
type_of country. Jessie's looking forward immensely to 

x ln 1896. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

your coming for to her you are my Good Genius and she 
will show you her affection in her artless manner by con- 
cocting various dishes and in everything else showing great 
discretion. She is beginning to walk. She sends her love. 

Ever yours 


Spring Grove, 



7th July '19 

It was the instinct (not the sense the instinct) of what 
you have discerned with your unerring eye that kept me off 
the R. 1 for 20 years or more. That and nothing else. My 
instinct was right. But all the same I cannot say I regret 
the impulse which made me take it up again. I am settling 
my affairs in this world and I should not have liked to leave 
behind me this evidence of having bitten off more than I 
could chew. A very vulgar vanity. Could anything be more 

The "innumerable multitude" for which I write falls nat- 
urally into two parts. One is composed of Edward Garnett 
and the other of the rest of mankind. To that last I can 
talk back, to Edward I cannot. And it is not my dear fellow 
, that I have erected you into a fetish. There is nothing mys- 
tic in my attitude to you. There never has been. It is not 
vague dread that you inspired but an absolute confidence. 
I wouldn't like you to think my friendship importunate 

1 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

but I must remind you of your promise to come and see us 
in this house (which is odious). But perhaps sitting smok- 
ing together we could manage to forget where we are. 
Week-end, middle week, any time and for as many days 
as you can spare. Only drop Jessie word of your coming. 
She sends you her love. After Monday next we shall be 
here all the time till the 25th of August. 

Ever yours 


The Arrow is to appear in Sepr I think. After Miss Hal- 
lows left on her holiday I ceased to send you L & W 1 from 
sheer compunction at throwing that thing, too, at your over- 
whelmed head. They will finish the R this month and the 
book-form is planned for the spring 1920. 

Spring Grove 

24. 9 19. 

My loving thanks for your letter. I don't think there is 
a single remark you make that I don't understand both in 
the letter and in the spirit. 

I have looked at once, here and there, at your marks and 
marginal notes in various numbers. 2 I quite see. As it hap- 
pened I came upon one par. which you condemn in toto but 
which I can't take out as it bears on the story itself the 
plot. But I shall try to put it into other words. 

Don't you know my dear Edward how stupid people are! 
They take delight in merest twaddle, they look out for and 

1 The weekly paper Land and Water 

2 Of The Rescue serialized in Land and Water. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

welcome the obvious. And they understand hardly anything 
which is not either one or the other. 

Miss H. is looking out and preparing for dispatch to you 
the Nos you mention. 

Yes, the A oj G 1 is "swallowed down." The amount of re- 
viewing was really greater than for any of my books, I 
think. People write to each other (and sometimes to me 
too) about it. Next thing to a "sensation." The Church 
Times (High) the Guardian (Evangelical) and the Metho- 
dist Times (2 notices) are most sympathetic and yes al- 
most intelligent. I am not joking. Who would have thought 
it possible ! ! 

Give my love to David I am glad he likes it. And just 
hint to him that I am not a musty old reactionary in my 
feelings. My misfortune is that I can't swallow any formula 
and thus am wearing the aspect of enemy to all mankind. 

Jessie sends her dear love. She has been badly lamed by 
the surgical examination, and spends most of her time in 
bed. There must be another operation on R. Jones' return 
from U S, about middle November and in Liverpool, as 
R. J. wants to have her there under his eye. Beastly pros- 
pect. T-, 

r Ever yours T ~ 




Sunday 16 11 .19 

God (I don't know his address) is my witness that your 

i The Arrow of Gold. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

two last letters (others too) have been put away amongst 
the "preciosa" of my study. Miss H. is another witness 
more accessible than the other. But why protest so much? 
The very warmth of your criticism 1 when we were walking 
up and down on the grass at Spring Grove (you remember) 
amazed and touched me. That after all these years you 
should think my work worth so much thought., so much feel- 
ing, so much interest gave me almost a feeling of awe. Such 
friendship gives to one's life a sense of continuity, keeps off 
that dreadful suspicion of futility which dogs our footsteps 
and as we grow older treads on our very heels. It was a 
most unexpected experience and it nothing else makes 
the Rescue memorable to me. 

I scribbled 3 lines to you directly we got into this house 
but in the muddle of the first days the envelope may not 
have been posted. Afterwards I became not so much busy 
as absorbed. I want to finish something before we move 
from here to L'pool where Sir. R. Jones is going to operate 
again on Jessie's knee. A horrid prospect! She, as usual 
serene, sends you her dear love and has administered a 
scolding to me for not writing to you long before. In her 
own obscure and penetrating manner she has understood 
many years ago how much I owe to you. 

I'll stop abruptly here. I have a gouty wrist not fit to 
write with. I shall let you know of our departure directly 
we get a date from the surgeon. 

Ever unalterably yours 

1 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

85 Kingsley Rd 
Princess Park 
8 Dec 1919 

Now we can say for certain that the operation is a suc- 
cess; and we may hope that poor Jessie's troubles are near- 
ing their end. She sends you her love. 

My renewed thanks for your marginal notes and your let- 
ters about The R, I have started on the text now. 
I'll drop you a line in a few days. 
Ever yours 


New Year's Day 



I won't mock yours and mine philosophy by a parade of 
good wishes. This is the first letter I write in 1920 and we 
all here old and young send you our love. 

I ought to have written you immediately after our return 
here instead of which I became immediately ill with a 
beastly complaint (not gout) which prevented me sitting up 
at the table and made me generally unwilling to stir as much 
as my little finger if it were to save my life. 

I am better today. As to Mrs Jessie she is going on well 
and strong; and I see the time when she will become un- 
governable. But even that prospect is cheering in compari- 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

son to a bed-ridden future which hung over our heads for 
the last 3 or 4 years. 

I've done nothing for the last six weeks and I feel that I'll 
never do anything any more. Somehow I don't feel so hap- 
py about it as I ought to for what could be more soothing 
than a sense of impotence? 

Give my affectionate New Year's greetings to your wife 
and to David. I wish more power to his right arm; for he, 
at any rate, may yet hope for one (at least) lucky shot 
against some Philistine or other, in his life. 

May you live long enough to see him whirl his sling! As 
to me I have no such expectation. I admit that I am not 
buried (or incinerated) yet but I have a strong feeling that 
I ought to be. Ever yours 


4. 4. 20 




I wonder whether you will condescend to look at my hand- 

My dear fellow ever since we came home from L'pool I 
have been more or less laid up with gout. Wrists one after 
another, ankles then came bronchitis days and days in 

Through it all I went on struggling with the text of the 
Rescue. You can have no idea in what close communion I 
felt myself to be with you. I think that every mark of your 
pen has been attended to. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

It is over. Proofs read too. And for the rest I do not 

Jessie meantime has been (after all these bright hopes fol- 
lowing the L'pool operation) getting steadily worse, sinking 
into unbearable pain and still worse hopelessness. Two 
days ago Sir R Jones came down from Scotland and operated 
again. The relief was instantaneous and now everybody 
connected with "the case" seems determined that it should 
be the last time. We shall see. She is going on very well 
and sends you her love. 

I feel physically shaken. Mentally so-so. It is only my 
affection for you that remains unchanged from the old times. 

Ever yours 




[April 27, 1920] 

Jessie was operated on again on the 31 Mch and after 3 
weeks in a Canterbury Nursing Home we brought her here. 
But unfavorable symptoms have set in again and there will 
probably be another operation. 

Meantime all we can do is to make her pain bearable by 
means of ice-bags and lotions. 

This is our bumper of news and very beastly it is. 
I ought to have thanked you long before for your dear 
letter. My dear Edward ! A set of the Ld Edition has been 
marked for your own in my thoughts ever since that affair 
has been planned. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

The English publication (of Rescue) will be delayed be- 
muse of some muddle in the delivery of the paper. In U S 
the date is 21st May and if you like I will send you a copy. 
But I can't imagine anyone so impatient as that for J. C's 
patched book. 

I am feeling perpetually seedy and would gladly not trou- 
ble my head about it if only I could. 

I hope David will prosper in his adventure. Give him my 
most friendly greeting. 

Jessie sends you her love. 

Yours ever 




11 July '20. 

On some days my wrist is so disabled that I can't write 
at all and dictating letters is a horror. 

Thanks for your letter and the interesting inclosure. Now 
the thing 1 is done I am ready to forget all about it all 
except your interest, the thought and time you've given to it, 
the great constancy of your friendship. This my dear Ed- 
ward is what these pages will always mean to me. I tried to 
make the best of your advice in the general current of the 
last half; and, as to details, all your remarks and suggestions 
(in the margin of the L. & W. text) have been adopted and 
followed except in one instance amounting to about a line 
and a half. 

1 The Rescue. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Please tell the writer of the critical note on Mrs. Travers 
that speaking in all sincerity I am immensely gratified by 
her appreciation and very much impressd by the acuteness 
of her analysis. One or two notice writers felt that there 
was something wrong. And my answer is to them that if I 
had hung Mrs. Travers for five minutes on Lingard's neck 
(at the last meeting) they would have been perfectly satis- 
fied. To her I would only advance in palliation that one 
must take account of facts. The blowing-up of the Emma 
was a fact. It destroyed suddenly the whole emotional situa- 
tion not only for them all but also for me. To go on after 
that was no joke. And yet something had to be done at 
once! I cared too much for Mrs. Travers to play pranks 
with her on the line of heroics or tenderness; and being 
afraid of striking a false note I failed to do her justice not 
so much in action, I think, as in expression. 

After the last incision two weeks ago there is a distinct im- 
provement in Jessie's state. But it will be a long, long job. 
Our love to you. I'll write again soon. Yours ever 



26. 8. 20. 

Thank you for your good letter and enclosure. 1 There 
was a kneip establishment near Dresden (in 1886) when I 
went to meet my uncle in Marienbad. 

Frankly I have no faith in all those things and I don't 

1 A suggestion that Conrad might try "a water cure" for the gout, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

want to go to these places (Kneip was a Bavarian illumine) 
which are odious to me with their pathetic population hyp- 
notised into going through all these tricks and ceremonies, 
by mere senseless verbiage. Have you read (calmly) the 
pages you have sent me? Or any other "healer's literature?" 
I am taking Jessie for a change to Deal from the 1st to 
21st of September. She is beginning to walk (about the 
house) and sends you her love. Will you name any day, 
say after the 22nd, for a visit here as long as you can spare 
time for. 

Ever yours 


Write here Deal is only 18 miles off and letters will be 

South Eastern Hotel 

9 Sep. '20 


We rejoice at your promise to come to us on the 4 Oct. 
You must let us know the train which we will meet in Can- 
terbury (notBishopsbourne). 

I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that you are going 
to bring out some critical essays. Their value will endure 
long, long after the "old timepiece" has really stopped. For, 
as to the present, those who say it does no longer go are 
simply unable to hear the golden tick. 

Jessie's love. 

Ever yours 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


8. 11. 20 

I was laid up with very beastly gout when your letter ar- 
rived. It seems to me I heard something of that copy. 1 Per- 
haps Hodgson has sent me the catgue? I wondered what it 
was really but didn't hit on the "medical" solution. I re- 
member now the man very well. 

The news of you thinking of a novel is great news. Do, 
my dearest Edward, do give it an honest trial and who 
knows! Perhaps it will grip you. As to you getting a hold 
on it to some purpose I have no doubt of it whatever. I ac- 
cept the title provisionally (for purposes of reference only) 
because it is too literal too explicit too much of a defini- 
tion. You perceive I have sat at your feet, don't you? 

But you may call it what you like even An Angel's Tears 
(an Angel would naturally weep over a fool) and have my 
excited blessing in any case. Don't be afraid of being rough 
and of being exquisite. You are quite capable of blending 
both these strains. You are! And let "all thy words bear 
the accent of heroic truth" properly seasoned by malice. 
But before everything switch off the critical current of your 
mind and work in darkness the creative darkness which no 
ghost of responsibility will haunt. 
All our loves 

Ever yours 


1 A copy of An Outcast of the Islands, given by E G in 1896 to a doctor, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 



16 Dec. 1920 

I sent your name and address to Heinemann so that they 
should forward you direct your set of the Colled Edition, 
which, they say, is to begin to appear this month 

It was nice and dear of you to go and see Jessie when she 
was in town. She was immensely pleased and told me that 
you were specially delighted that evening. She has a very 
strong sense of your personality always had. Of course 
these things are obscure in her yet the feeling is always 
perfectly genuine. 

I have had the Cat: No 1 from Taviton St. and am writing 
to ask for 2 or 3 items and also to wish these young men 
the best of luck. 

I have been beastly invalidish these 2 months. I shall 
take Jessie out south in Jan. It may do me good too but 
I doubt it. The Secret Agent (4 acts) has been taken by 
McKinnel. We shall see what comes of it. I have done 
nothing can do nothing don't want to do anything. One 
lives too long Yet cutting one's throat would be too scanda- 
lous besides being unfair to other parties. Xmas greetings. 
Ever affectionately yours 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


6. 1 21 


I went to Pawling on Wed. morning about the ded n of 
the Nigger. Everybody in the office was appalled but they 
took jolly good care to point out that Miss Hallowes and I 
had to bear our share of the guilt. Miss H is, in her own 
words, "frightfully upset" about it; and I won't tell you how 
bad I feel myself. However I have arranged with Pawling 
that 780 pages with the dedication should be printed at once 
and inserted into those sets that are not gone out yet. Those 
subs er s who have already received their sets will have the 
dedication page sent to them with an explanatory letter. I 
must say that S.S. apparently took the matter to heart and 
instructions to carry the thing out at once were given in my 

Miss Hallowes wants me to explain to you that the prelims 
were sent to her at Windermere where she was spending her 
holiday and where she had no copy of The Nigger to compare 
them with. 

I, of course, am wholly inexcusable. Pinker, when told 
after his return from the theatre, gave me a withering look. 
Jessie sends her love and hopes it will not affect our rela- 
tions. I told her I hoped not and anyhow I am 

Ever yours 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 


17. 1. '21. 

We could not find the Crane article 1 in any printed form 
(either U K or U S) and so we have dug out an old type- 
script. I am awfully sorry for the delay, I agree with your 
opinion of these "War pieces." Oh yes! They are good. 
And truly in all the work he left behind him there is nothing 
that could be dismissed as rubbish. For even the Third 
Violet is merely a characteristic failure. 

I am sending you also four Nos of L. Mercury. I have 
selected them with some care, and in a spirit of scrupulous 

Aubry and I have been talking you over lately here. You 
must have felt on that particular evening prolonged shudders 
as if an infinity of geese had been walking over your grave. 
(You know the popular saying?) However we can't help 
our "effete intellects." Still I found in that Frenchman of 
Frenchmen more sympathetic understanding of you the 
real you than in any Islander I've ever met. Perhaps you 
don't know but at that seance at Brown's you were really 
Great. I am proud of having been discovered by you all 
these years ago. 

Jessie sends her dear love. We start on Sunday. 
Ever yours 


1 A paper by Conrad reprinted in Life and Letters. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

18. 3. 21. 
Gd Hotel d'Ajaccio 


I am a prey to remorse for not having thanked you yet for 
the marine prints you mentioned in your letter to the Au- 
drey-child. It's very dear of you to have thought of me in 
that particular way. 

To read your letter was the greatest pleasure, for you 
know praise from you would count against the world. For 
that very reason blame from you causes me a great concern. 
It may be I failed to understand the Ascending Effort, 1 but 
I did not mean to treat Bourne disrespectfully. The thesis 
of this book is vitiated by the fact that poetry and religion 
having their source in an emotional state may act and react 
on each other worthily whereas "Science" at its amplest 
(and profoundest) is only the exercise of a certain kind of 
imagination springing either from facts eminently prosaic 
or from tentative assumptions of the commonest kind of 
common-sense. And you will admit that Bourne, writing in 
its slightly grotesque heaviness made it very difficult to 
read the whole book in a spirit of impartiality let alone 
benevolence. I agree with you about Tchehov, absolutely. 
But that great and wonderful man did not write his stories 
in praise of the Medical science. Poetical genius must be 
nourished on knowledge it can't have too much of it but 
you will imagine easily what a poem in praise of knowledge 
would be like even if an Archangel came down from Heav- 
en on purpose to write it for our edification. 

Nevertheless I am sorry to have provoked your displeas- 

1 The Ascending Effort, by George Bourne. 


Letters r from Joseph Conrad 

ure. But also pray reflect that I had only a column on the 
last page of the Daily Mail and that it couldn't either help 
or hurt Bourne's book. As to myself I simply said (quite 
superficially) what I thought, and damaged myself in your 
opinion which is punishment enough. Justice is satisfied. 

I had no idea you had never read the Autocracy and War x 
lucubration. How far all that is! I wish I had your M. 
Guardian article. You are a dear to have made a fuss till 
they sent you the book; but you cannot doubt that a copy 
(of the first issue) has been reserved for you. I did not 
tell Dent to send it to you because I always inscribe your 
copies and was going to do so on our return from here 
which by the bye will be at the end of April. 

I am glad you like the "Maupassant." I was never satis- 
fied with it but shall think better of it now. After all the 
things in that book it is not my trade! There's not a 
single one (with the exception of the Censor) that I haven't 
done unwillingly against the grain. 

I won't bore you with a relation of the Island of Corsica 
and its inhabitants. This outing is a success as far as Jessie 
is concerned. She sends her dear love to you. I am neither 
the better nor the worse for being here in health, that is. I 
would perhaps have done some work if I had stayed at 
home. But God only knows! Head empty. Feelings as of 
dead except the feeling of my unalterable affection for you. 

Ever yours 


1 The paper reprinted in Life and Letters, 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


[April 11, 1921.] 

We returned yesterday, and the first letter I write is to 
thank you with all the warmth of which I am capable for 
your review in M. Guardian. Anything coming from you 
has a particular value and on this occasion you have been 
as generous to me as you have ever been from the earliest 
day of your acquaintance, with a deep understanding and 
clear eyed affection which makes it easy to accept and in- 
deed to cherish. 

Give David my and Jessie's very best and most friendly 
good wishes on the occasion of his "change of status." I don't 
know how he may feel about it, but to me marriage still 
seems as great an adventure as though I myself had never 
been married. As to his proposed attitude towards a "cold 
and critical" world it is eminently praiseworthy in its inde- 
pendence and, apart from that, practically very sound. I, 
in my utter loneliness, was never faced by the problem of 
"friends." You were the only land one and I remember the 
charitable indulgence with which you received the news and 
the priceless simple kindness with which your wife and you 
received Jessie when I brought her to the Cearne. From 
the first you extended to her your characteristic generosity 
of acceptance of which she became aware early and has re- 
ceived with an admiring understanding of your personality 
reached by God knows what mysterious intuitive process 
and therefore perfectly unshakable to the end of time. 

I rejoice at the news of the American publication of your 
critical articles in book form. The prospect of your activity 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

dearest Edward arouses my excited interest. We must soon 
have a talk. There can be no question of me coming to town 
yet and I don't know how you may feel about running down 
here when the train service becomes normal again. Drop 
us a line. I am anxious to know what you have exactly in 
your mind. Our dear love to you. 

Yours ever 


2 Sepr. 21. 


Many thanks for the MS 1 and your good and enlighten- 
ing letter. All your remarks carry absolute conviction and 
will have to be carried out as occasion offers. The first page 
of Chapter 1st must be rewritten obviously before the serial 
begins. Thanks for pointing out the two anachronisms of 
speech. Those are most difficult to guard against but the 
easiest to correct, luckily. 

It was good to take contact with your mind and your 
unerring judgment. It was a great tonic to a solitary man. 
I am going on with the thing more confidently, now that you 
have seen it and found it has some quality. 

I have just read through the Zeromski novel you mean: 
History of a Sin. Honestly I don't think it will do for trans- 
lation. The international murderess episodes take but a 
little space after all. The whole thing is disagreeable and 
often incomprehensible in comment and psychology. Often 
it is gratuitously ferocious. You know I am not squeamish. 
The other work the great historical machine is called Ashes 
(Popioty). Both of course have a certain greatness the 

1 Of Conrad's unfinished novel, Swpense. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

greatness of a wild landscape and both take too much for 
granted in the way of receptivity and tolerance. 
Our dear love to you 

Ever yours 



[September 26, 21.] 

I have warned our friend Pinker that you will be writing 
to him in the matter of the publication in vol form of certain 
selected critical articles of yours; of which some would be- 
long to the collection about to be published in the M.S. and 
others specially reserved by you for the English edition. I 
hope I have not misrepresented your intention. 

J. B. Pinker declares himself ready and anxious to make 
the best possible arrangement for this. I don't suppose you 
have changed your mind, but in any case please let Pinker 
know what you want done or not done. 
Love from us all here. 

Ever yours 



22. 12. '21. 

Many thanks for your letter, which moved me deeply with 
the sense of your affection continued for so many years. 
I am grieved to learn that you have not had your copy of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Notes onL& L. 1 Miss H. waved in my face a list of names 
where your name stands first with a cross against it and the 
letter (E) after it meaning an English ed. copy sent! 
There must be a special devil with a mission to make trouble 
between us. As you know the Jewish God (under whom you 
and I were born) is not always direct in his methods. It 
would have been simpler to put hatred into our hearts with- 
out all that low intriguing. But I always suspected him of 
being a Futile Person. 

I haven't a copy at this moment in the house but you 
shall have one before the year is out. Your suspicion of 
Pawling is not justified I think. I believe he really meant to 
have that dedication page put in. He had also reminders 
because I know that 7 did mean it. And now it is done! 

Our best wishes my dear Edward. In this world where 
the seasons of curses and congratulations are still ruled by 
the Jewish God it is not prudent to be more precise at least 
for us incorrigible Gentiles. 

But I commend you to the Merciful, the Compassionate 
the same whom I would like to look on me at times. Of 
course I know He can't do much. Still . . . 

Give my best regards to your wife and my congratulations 
on the triumphant achievement of Dost: and my season's 
greetings to David. 

Ever affectly yours 


1 Life and Letters. 




27. 1. 22. 

I've been in bed for about 3 weeks and this is the first 
time I am using a pen for God knows how long. 

Thanks my dearest fellow for the Chehov vol. He is too 
delightful for words. Very great work. Very great. 

Do tell your wife of my admiration that grows and grows 
with every page of her translations I read. The renderings 
in this vol have impressed me extremely. 
Jessie sends her love 

Ever yours 




May 24th. 1922. 

I am extremely disgusted at not being able to write to 
you myself, but I must thank you for the volume 1 which has 
just arrived the pure light of the past cutting across with 
a tender, softer ray the first-class illuminative arrange- 

1 Friday Night, Library Criticisms and Appreciations, by Edward Garnett. 
Cape. 1922. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

ments under which we live today. What I have felt and 
thought is more suitable for talk, warm and many coloured, 
than for the cold blue tint of the typewriter. Let me only 
say at once that the American papers have fascinated me 
by the illuminative quality of the statement of the whole 
case and by the particular insight in the appreciation of 
the men. 

I am trying to get through a sort of long short story (the 
title of which is The Rover) so as to complete a volume this 

I have done no work that matters for the last eighteen 
months and I have not looked at the novel since December 
last. But then since December last I have been laid up four 
times without ever being given a change to recover my tone 
and grapple with my work. For the last week though my 
right hand has been tied up I have been able to work with a 
certain sense of mastery over my subject. 

We must certainly arrange to meet soon and it ought to be 
here, my dear Edward, because as soon as I get away from 
home I seem to go to pieces mentally and physically. Ex- 
cept for not running about naked I have become a complete 
savage and look upon all mankind with hostility I mean 
the mankind in the street; exactly like a Massi warrior per- 
ambulating the bush. 

I will make you a signal about joining company for a few 
days directly The Rover has ceased to rove and be damned 
to him. You have no idea how that fellow and a lot of other 
crazy creatures that got into my head have also got on my 
nerves. I have never known anything like this before. I 
have been infinitely depressed about a piece of work, but 
never so exasperated with anything I have had to do. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

We are sorry to hear of your wife having had a bad time. 
Give her our love and sympathy. 

Ever yours 


22. 8. '22. 

I had no doubt you would feel deeply Hudson's death. 

I was never intimate with him but I always thought of 
him with real affection. The secret of his charm both as a 
man and as a writer remains impenetrable to me. A little 
uncanny. Yet there was nothing more real in letters 
nothing less tainted with the conventions of art; I mean the 
most legitimate. He was a nature-production himself and 
had something of its fascinating mysteriousness. Something 
unique is gone out of the world. Yes my dear Edward we 
will miss him you of course more than I. But then I am 
much older than you and begin to feel resigned. 

Do my dear fellow. Come down next Thursday 31st 
isn't it? On the 30 I must lunch with Galsworthy whom I 
have not seen for ages. Strange fellows these Harmsworths! 
It is as if they had found Aladdin's lamp. Strangest still to 
think that I had been more intimate with N. 1 than with Hud- 
son. Funny world this. Ever yours 


(Sept. 12. 1922.) 
This is copy of letter I wrote to Dent. It speaks for itself. 

Ever yours 



Letters from Joseph Conrad 

To J. M. Dent & Son 

I have your letter, for which thanks. 

As regards the article on Hudson suggested by Dr Smyth, 
of the Times Book Review, I am the last person to write 
an "authoritative" paper on W.H.H. I don't suppose I 
have met Hudson ten times in my life, though when we did 
meet he was always extremely kind and friendly to me. It 
is six or seven years, or perhaps more, since I saw Hudson 
last. We never corresponded on any subject of general in- 
terest, and I have not a scrap of his writing in my possession. 

The person eminently fitted to write an authoritative 
article is, of course, Edward Garnett, Hudson's friend for 
more than twenty years, one of his earliest appreciators long 
before the public, or for that matter the publishers, recog- 
nised the high quality of Hudson's work which he did his 
utmost to make known to the world. They saw each other 
frequently and I believe, corresponded regularly, I do not 
suppose there is another man who has such a profound 
knowledge of Hudson's work as Edward Garnett. I under- 
stand that E. G. is planning a study of Hudson which would 
be exactly the thing for the Times Book Review and for 
your own purpose in the way of "authority" and sympathy. 
You could do no better than suggest Garnett to your friends 
in America for the work which I absolutely decline to under- 


Many thanks for D's little tale. 1 It is the most successful 
thing of the kind I have ever seen. There is somehow a 

1 Lady Into Fox, by David Garnett Chatto & Wmdus. 1922. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

slight flavour of 18th Century manner of diction which is 
quite fascinating. The earnest flow of the narrative has not 
a single uncertain note. And considering how many occa- 
sions there were to go wrong I am impressed either by the 
wonderful genuineness of his imagination or his surprising 
mastery over it. The whole psychology man and beast is, I 
should say, flawless, in essence and exposition. Altogether 
an accomplished piece of work, touchingly amusing and 
without a single mistake (that I can see) in style, tone or 
conception. My most friendly congratulations to David on 
this little piece so thoroughly done. Nothing of the amateur 
there. Every page holds. Ever yours 


Thursday [November 2, 1922.] 


I hope Jessie explained clearly yesterday. Herewith 2 
upp circles for tomorrow. 1 I don't know whether they will 
be of any use to you. 

The thing has been marvellously vulgarized. I don't 
know whether to laugh or to swear. Of course it is not the 
actors fault it's their destiny. They can no more help 
themselves than the immortal gods can. And I, too am the 
victim of my weakness in suffering these ridiculous agonies. 
Are we to see you tomorrow? (Friday) 
Ever yours 


1 Performance of The Secret Agent 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

7. 11. '22 




It was very good of you to write to Jessie. I did not ask 
you to give me your opinion just because it was for me the 
only one that mattered. Your subtlety (if not your affec- 
tion) will understand what I mean. I am much reassured 
by what you say. You evidently think it an honest piece of 
work not altogether written in the dark and certainly not 
from mere vanity just to show. 

All you say of the acting is Gospel truth. Yes! I was 
unjust to the professor. 

On Friday I made large cuts the same I wanted to make 
3 weeks ago but not permitted. Funny mentality, that of 
Stage people. 

Our love to you 

Ever yours 


17. 11. '22 

I am truly glad to know that your leg is improving. 

It was dear of you to write to me again after seeing the 
play for the second time. 

Your letter is very comforting. Of course a failure is dis- 
agreeable ; but this one has affected me very little. I am my- 
self surprised at my indifference. And to tell you the truth 
I foresaw what was going to be said even to the very words 
and tones. It isn't very strange after all. If you know the 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

vocabulary of a hundred learned parrots you will know what 
they will screech out at you when you open the door. I 
knew the vocabulary. It isn't very extensive you know. 

A "man of theatre," a producer, assured me that every 
line I wrote was eminently "actable." He also told me that 
to his mind the play was altogether mis-cast. All this mat- 
ters nothing now. I suppose every playwright that ever 
failed has been told something of the kind. I don't think I 
will again court failure in that way. It would be an object- 
less thing to do, for from the nature of things I cannot hope 
to affirm myself in the end. More press cuttings are pour- 
ing in. There seems to be a sort of controversy started on 
the merits and effects of theatrical criticism. Jessie sends 
her dear love. 

Ever yours 




March 10th, 1923. 

I was just preparing to write to you but certainly not to 
the Maison Basque. I didn't know you were a Basque; and 
had any right to date your letters from your national habi- 
tation. Life is full of surprises! 

One of them certainly was Mr. Beer, who had communi- 
cated with me through dear old Harnlin Garland some time 
last July or August. I was under the impression I had told 
you something about it; but truth to say I attached no im- 
portance whatever to the episode which had something to do 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

with a batch of Mrs. Crane's letters. Anyway I knew that 
there was such a person, and that a biography of Crane was 
in contemplation. About a week ago I heard from Eric 
Pinker that Beer and Knopf wanted to see me. They came 
here last Thursday and Beer did mention to me that he had 
had a talk with you. Your good letter arrived on Friday 
morning, after their visit. 

Its object was to ask me to write an introduction for the 
aforesaid biography. God knows I don't want to play the 
ghoul, feeding on the memory of my friends, . . . that trip 
is not going to be a lecturing tour but simply a visit to Dou- 
bleday at his home in Oyster Bay, for three weeks or so. As 
I can't suppose that Doubleday intends to keep me shut up 
in his cellar for all that time I fully expect to be let in for 
some at least semi-public appearances. But the less I think 
of it the better, or I may die of funk before I put foot on 
that distant shore. They begin already to talk about it. 
David Bone heard of it in New York and very kindly asked 
me to come over with him. Muirhead will be there too, and 
we have got to join on April 2 1st, in Glasgow but I haven't 
yet got my ticket. 

That I should want a ticket in order to go on board a 
ship on a foreign voyage seems to me the most absurd thing 
in the world. 

Anyway the whole thing doesn't bear thinking about, and 
that is why I didn't tell you of it before. There would have 
been an awful finality about it. And now there is; though 
I don't quite believe yet that it will ever come off. 

Of course, I will have to come to London before I go, and 
we will have a long talk. That confounded Introduction, 
which I haven't begun yet, is worrying me. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Jessie suggests that if I asked you nicely you would per- 
haps come down to see us for a couple of days before the 
end of this month, at any time convenient to you. Well, I 
am asking you nicely now; and I am sure that, (as Mr. 
Ratsch would say), "the amiability of your character and 
the elevation of your sentiments will induce you to visit the 
house of the departing." 

I am no end pleased at David's book going so strong. Did 
you see the review in the (American) Bookman? Give him 
my greeting and congratulations. 

Mrs. C. sends her love. 

Ever yours 




(March 25th, 1923.) 

Your wire was a great blow. It was good of you to write 
from the bed of sickness. We are so sorry. I could not 
leave for U.S. without seeing you but you will be mended 
long before the date which is 20th April. I hope your 'flu if 
very disabling will not be very serious. Should you shake 
it off soon perhaps a couple of days here would do you no 
harm. I will be leaving this on the 16th. 

Jessie sends her love. She is again very lame and some- 
what depressed. 

The Crane article for Beer is gone. It's just personal 
gossip, not critical not even literary. Our first day to- 
gether and so on. I have asked Miss H. to take a copy of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

the passages in which I mention you which I'll send you in 
my next letter. 

Ever af f etfly yours 



Aug. 8th. 1923. 


I am sorry I put in an, apparently, unlucky form what I 
had to say about the two pieces of prose which you sent me. 
Don't forget, my dear, that I wrote to you, not to the young 
man; therefore there could not be any question of putting 
the matter in a form which would spare his feelings. Neither 
did I wish for a moment to influence your opinion or your 
helpful attitude towards his work. I repeat again that I may 
be utterly wrong as against your general judgment which was 
formed, also, on, no doubt correct, personal impression of a 
temperament (such as you describe it) attempting to express 
itself in terms of art. 

It was that attempt alone on which I concentrated on 
the actual pages before me which, ex-hypothesi, ought to 
have been revelatory. I mean the pages, not the subjects. 
Subjects in themselves never appear revelatory to me, if 
only because subjects are, so to speak, common property, 
lying about on the ground for one man after another to 
pick up and handle. That is what makes a subject such an 
insignificant thing, and also invests it with the potentiality 
of almost infinite suggestion. It depends really on him who 
picks it up. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

The possession of a special temperament ought to make 
itself felt in the expression. I quite believe that his tem- 
perament is such as you describe it to me; but the fact is, 
my dear Edward, that somehow or other the story, as you 
told it to me, in say, about a hundred words, impressed me 
much more than the column of print which I read. You 
don't know how good you were in your extremely simple 
resume. And that not by any means as a result of some 
trick of a born raconteur. You certainly haven't got them. 
You displayed neither animation, nor conventional fluency; 
yet, as I often remarked when talking with you, your per- 
sonality came through somehow, made the thing significant 
and distinctly worth hearing. 

I felt nothing of the kind when reading the article. That's 
what it all amounts to. I will not for a moment suppose that 
you are wrong in your opinion as to the possibilities of future 
productions from that pen. But he, obviously, should be 
warned against a careless use of words and a too close con- 
templation of his subject. That of course doesn't mean that 
he should be told to strive for a personal expression. No! 
It is either in him or it is not in him. But a certain fastidi- 
ousness which would prevent him from putting down the 
first words that came into his mind ought to be cultivated, 
or else both his sympathies and his indignations will lose 
much of their force. 

But who am I to lecture anybody, who have reasoned out 
and meditated so many pages of my own only to give them 
up in despair! My feelings ought to have nothing to do 
with this letter or perhaps with any letter. These are mat- 
ters more fit for intimate speech; and I am conscious of 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

having talked with you so openly all my life that you have 
nothing more about me to learn, 
Jessie sends her dear love. 

Ever affect^ yours 


[August, 1923] 

You must pardon this scrawl in answer to your good letter. 
I was touched by your memory of old times. If I said any- 
thing as what you quote it was sheer impertinence. I did 
not know then what style was; and if I have any conception 
of it now, it cannot be other than very primitive. But as 
I said in one of my prefaces you were "always very patient 
with me at that time." And you are that now. Your dear 
and touching letter proves it. 

My dear, in your feelings, in your judgments, your en- 
thusiasms and criticisms, in all your fine reactions to that 
"best" which not every eye can see, you have been beauti- 
fully consistent, both in your subtle and your peremptory 
moods. It is thirty years now (almost to a day) since I 
came ashore for good. And the very next year our friend- 
ship began! Straight from the sea into your arms, as it 
were. How much you have done to pull me together intel- 
lectually only the Gods that brought us together know. For 
I myself don't. All I had in my hand was some little creative 
gift but not even one single piece of "cultural" luggage. I 
am proud after all these years to have understood you from 
the first. Ever Yours 

P.S. Jessie sends her love. 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 


20. 9. 23. 

I was over in Havre arranging for John's stay in France 
("to acquire the language") when your dear letter and your 
introduction to Hudson's correspondence arrived. 

Those pages are first rate and I am glad you have been 
moved to write them. Thanks my dearest fellow for the in- 
scribed copy. It is the most touching and penetrating ap- 
preciation of a personality that I have ever read. 

On our return last Sunday (for Jessie went over with me) 
I developed a temperature, (God knows why!) which kept 
me in bed till today: or else you would have heard from me 
Jessie sends her dear love. 

Ever yours 


21. Nov. '23. 

Yes, Quinn promised to keep the MSS. together but the 
mood passes and the promise goes with it. But did you ever 
hear of anything so idiotic as this sale? But it is my greatest 
success! People who never heard of me before will now 
know my name. Others who have never been able to read 
through a page of mine are convinced that I am a great 
writer. If I only could let it get about (discreetly) that the 
whole thing was a put up job between Quinn and me and that 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I got my share of the plunder I believe I would become "uni- 
versally respected." But that is too much to hope for. 

The Rover my dear Edward is not what you have seen. 
It's an eighty thousand word thing I finished in July 1922. 
Since it had no wealthy young squires and French countesses 
in it I did not intrude it on your notice. It is Revolutionary 
and you are an Aristocrat. I know you well. But I did 
mention it to you, slightly once. However you will soon 
have your copy and be able to jump on it with both feet. I 
won't mind as long as it does not make you sick. A thing 
of sentiment of many sentiments. 

Ever yours 

J. C. 
Will be looking impatiently for H's letters. 



Nov 30th. 1923. 

I have been laid up for days and days and your volume 1 
of H's letters was most welcome alleviation to the worry 
and general horror of the situation. I think that your little 
introduction at the beginning is the most charming and 
touching thing that I ever remember having read. The 
Letters themselves of course are particularly interesting. 
It is extraordinary how his correspondence reproduces the 
accent of his talk. But I was glad to have the man brought 
close to me once more, and, as it were, led up and commented 
upon in your friendly voice. 

1 Letters From W H Hudson. Nonesuch Press 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

I dictate this because I am not fit to sit up long enough 
to write a whole letter in pen and ink. In fact I don't feel 
very fit even for dictation. The patron of Letters has "de- 
livered the goods" in his own inimitable style, and here is 
your own copy 1 the first to leave the house. I would have 
sent it two days before only I wanted to be able to scrawl 
the inscription. 

Ever your own 




Dec. 4th. 1923, 

I am so sorry I cannot answer you by hand. I have been 
flattened out more than I can remember by this last bout. 

The generosity of your criticism, my dear Edward, is 
great enough to put heart into a dead man. As I have not 
claimed to be more than only half-dead for the last month, 
I feel, after reading your letter, like a man with wings. 
Every word of your commendation has electrified the dulled 
fibres of my being. My absolute belief in your sincerity in 
questions of literary art has relieved me of that load of 
weary doubt which I have not been able to shake off before. 
It relieved me thoroughly, because the belief in the absolute 
unflawed honesty of your judgment has been one of the 
mainstays of my literary life. Even if led astray, even if 
apparently mistaken, there is that in you which remains im- 
peccable in its essence. In all your literary judgments there 

1 The Rover. 


.Letters irom josepn 

is never anything suspect. Your very prejudices are gen- 
uinely personal and, in a manner of speaking, can be thor- 
oughly trusted. 

Therefore I gather like a real treasure all the words of 
commendation you give to Cath., Arlette, and the doctrinaire 
Real. I gather them the more eagerly because what I most 
feared in the secret of my heart was an impression of sketchi- 
ness. This is perhaps my only work in which brevity was 
a conscious aim. I don't mean compression. I mean brevity 
ab initio, in the very conception, in the very manner of 
thinking about the people and the events. I am glad you 
find Peyrol captivating; and indeed I am made glad by all 
the appreciative remarks you make which are much, very 
much beyond my highest expectations; though of course, 
my dear, I won't pretend I did not know that you would be 
looking for good points and make the most of them; for 
nothing can be less doubtful to me than your affection and 
your amazing faculty of comprehension. What you say 
about the English side of the book the fleet, the Vincent 
scenes etc. shows how you do marvelously respond to the 
slightest shades, the faintest flavours, the simplest indica- 
tions of sentiment underlying the action. My dear Edward, 
it is good to write while there is a reader like you about. 

And of course your critical ability, that very sensitiveness 
in response, has made you put your finger on the weak spot. 
I can honestly say that I did see it myself but not so clearly 
as since I have read your letter. You were not likely to miss 
Scevola, and, by Jove, now you have uttered the words he 
does look to me like a bit of a "scarecrow of the Revolution." 
Yet it was not my intention. It is not the fault of the original 
conception but the fault of presentation, of the literary 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

treatment. But apart from that, to take him fundamentally 
pray look at my difficulty! Postulating that Arlette had 
to remain untouched, the terrorist that brought her back 
could have been nothing else than what he is or the book 
would have had to be altogether different. To me S. is not 
revolutionary, he is, to be frank about it, a pathological case 
more than anything else. I won't go into a deeper exposi- 
tion. Your intelligence will take the hint at once. The sit- 
uation at Escampobar could not have lasted seven or eight 
years if S. had been formidable. But he was never formid- 
able except as a creature of mob psychology. Away from 
the mob he is just a weak-minded creature. As you know 
there were many like that. I tried to give a hint of it in 
what Catherine says about him: "the butt of all the girls," 
"always mooning about," "run away from his home to join 
the Revolution." He is weak-minded in a way as much as 
my poor Michel, the man with the dog, whose resigned phil- 
osophy was that "somebody must be last." Even amongst 
terrorists S. was considered a poor creature. But his half- 
witted soul received the impress of the Revolution which has 
missed the simple minded Michel altogether. I never in- 
tended S. to be a figure of the Revolution. As a matter of 
fact if there is a child of the Revolution there at all, it is 
Real, with his austere and pedantic turn of mind and con- 
science. The defect of Scevola, my dear Edward, is alas 
in the treatment, which instead of half -pathetic makes him 
half-grotesque; and no amount of wriggling and explaining 
will do away with the fact that so far he is a failure. A 
created figure that requires explaining to Edward Garnett 
is a failure. That is my sincere conviction. But as to a 
"formidable" Scevola . . . 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Yes, my dear. I know you will believe me when I tell 
you that I had a momentary vision of quite a great figure 
worthy of Peyrol; the notion of a struggle between the two 
men. But I did deliberately shut my eyes to it. It would 
have required another canvas. No use talking about it. 
How long would I have had to wait for that mood? and 
the mood of the other was there, more in accord with my 
temperament, more also with my secret desire to achieve a 
feat of artistic brevity, once at least, before I died. And on 
those grounds I believe you will forgive me for having re- 
jected probably a greater thing or perhaps only a different 

What I regret now is the rejection of a half thought-out 
scene, four pages or so, between Catherine and Scevola. But 
when it came to me the development of the story was al- 
ready marked and the person of Catherine established psy- 
chologically as she is now. That scene would have checked 
the movement and damaged the conception of Catherine. 
It would have been, and it would have looked, a thing "in- 
serted." I was feeling a little bit heartsick then, too, and 
anxious also to demonstrate to myself as soon as possible 
that I could finish a piece of work. So I let it go. 

Here you have, my dear Edward, the confession of my 
weaknesses in connection with the secret history of "The 
Rover." Had I been writing with pen and ink I would 
probably come nearer to expressing myself. You can form 
no idea of how much your letter has eased and comforted me, 
even physically. It was good of you to have written at once 
and while (as you say) "heavy with a cold." I hope it isn't 
the beginning of anything. I hope too, my dear, that you 
will be able to let me have a look at you soon. As soon as 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

you like. You know, it won't be really safe for me to come 
up to town for quite a long time. 
My love to you. Yours ever 




llth December, 1923. 

Thanks for your dear, friendly letter. 
Pray let me know how you are. I am better. But my dear 
fellow a gout (the most obscure of diseases) of thirty -two 
years' standing (and when the patient is sixty-five years old) 
is not to be driven off by the Medicine-men incantations. 
My dear, I consulted people in France (Montpellier) and 
in England, in Switzerland. I have tried all sorts of treat- 
ment and diet. Of course it will do me in the end but one 
must go sometime. Don't be angry and let me know about 

Ever yours 




llth May, 1924. 

I can hold a pen yet. For weeks I've had a bad wrist; 
or I would have thanked you before for the M at the Z. 1 

1 The Man at the Zoo, by David Garnett, Chatto & Windus. 1924 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

D. may be congratulated in pulling off this piece with great 
tact and subtlety. I think that, upon the whole, he has done 
well not to emphasize the irony more, against his Father's 
advice. It was undutiful, of course; but it was wise. My 
view is that the initial quarrel of the lovers (deliciously ab- 
surd) gave the note and the whole thing is perfectly in 
tune as it stands. I think he would be capable, if he let him- 
self go, of a very pleasant ferocity. The Twilight of the 
Gods had more than a whiff of it in its gentle playfulness. 

Old days! 

From a purely "worldly" point of view I regret that this is 
"the second." Not that I think one better than the other 
but the L. into F. was more "intimate" (no doubt about it) 
and had a note of anxious pathetic earnestness in the nar- 
rative which I believe accounted for some fashionable tears 
which, I am assured, were shed over it. This one is a trifle 
harder. What will the public say? 

And now what next? The fount could not have been 
dried by these two dips. I am very interested. Give D. my 
affectionate greeting. 

Jessie sends her love. 

Ever yours 







award to Conrad, ISO 


Conrad, article on, 4, 146, 


Crane, article on, 148 
Youth reviewed, 183, 184 

Turgenev article, 158 

author, Dostoievsky, 245 

author, Garnett, 259 
Almayefs Folly, 4, 9, 31 

comments on, 36, 37 

gift to Garnett, 30 

popularity, 16 

recommended by Garnett, 1, 2, 
Anarchist, The 211 
Anna Karenina 

author, Tolstoi, 181 
Araby Maid, 232 
Arrow of Gold, 254, 256, 264, 
Art of Wmmfred Matthews 

author, Duckworth, 182 
Ascending Effort 

author, Bourne, 277 
Ashes (Popioty), 280 
Atlantic Monthly 

Rescue under consideration 

Aubry, 276 

Batchelor Syndicate, 98 
Beer, Mr, 289, 291 
Bel-Ami, 25, 137 
Black, Robert, 175, 176 
Blackwood's Magazine, 24 
stories of Conrad, 27 





Bkckwood, William, 99, 100, 102, 
103, 104, 136 

rate paid to Conrad, 112 
Blake, Mrs , 158, 160 
Bobrowski, Thaddeus, 13 
Bone, David, 290 
Bone, Gertrude, (Mrs), 3 

Conrad's article m The Speaker, 


Booth, Charles, 16-17 
Boothby, Guy, 25 
Bourne, George 

Ascending Effort, 277 
Breaking Point 

Conrad's criticism of, 195-203 


Conrad's letter on, 205-207 
invitation to Conrad's, 210 
Bridges, R (Doctor) 

Shorter Poems, 118 

Conrad's story of, 54 
Brothers Karamazov 

author, Dostoievsky, 240 
Brute, 211 
Byrne, James 

Lords and Masters, 235-238 

Carlyle, Thomas, 213 
Censor of Plays 

Conrad's article in the Daily Mail, 

Century Company 

advised by Garnett, 229 
Chance, 15, 239 
Chap and Hall, 112, 115 
Chesson, W. H , 2, 31, 127 

Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Children of the Sea, 137 

see also, Nigger of the Narcissus 
Christmas Play for Children 

author, Garnett, 149 
Clemens, Samuel T., 99 
Collected Edition 

author, Conrad, 1, 274 
Colvin, Sidney (Sir), IS 
Conde, see II Conde 

Conrad affected by, 8 
Conrad, Borys 

in army, 247-248, 253, 260 
Conrad, Joseph 
Academy award, 150 
appearance and characteristics, 3, 

5, 10-15, 28 
Appreciation of, by Garnett, 4, 


Congo experiences, 8 
crossed Russian frontier at ten, 


dislike of theatre, 210, 218, 225 
views on censorship, 205-208 
family, 6, 10, 165-168 
financial losses, 21-22, 63 
Garnett, first meeting described, 


Gillmgham street home, 5 
Life and Letters of, 1 
nationality of, 2, 6 

referred to, 209 

on, the secret of the Universe, 143 
Pent Farm, 144, 145 
Reminiscences of f by Galsworthy, 


son born, 127 

visit to America contemplated, 300 
wish to return to sea, 16, 44, 142 
writings of 
contributions requested by the 

CornhiU, 56 

contributions requested by the 
Savoy, 62 


Conrad, Joseph Continued 
writings of Continued 

copyrights, American, 69, 71-72, 

Letters from, reference, 20 

magazine articles, 130, 151-152 

New York Retold, novel for, 229 

publisher, change in, considered, 
21, 78 

publishing agreements, 69, 70-72, 
76-77, 105, 116, 151 

short stories, 56, 105, 126, 138, 

translations into Polish, 78 
writings of, listed, 15, 16, 214 

see specific title for page num- 

Almayer's Folly 


Arrow of Gold 



Censor of Plays 


Children of the Sea 

Collected Edition 




End of the Tether 

Forecastle, suggested title, 87 

Freya of the Seven Isles 

Caspar Ruiz 

Heart of Darkness 






Lord Jim 

Mirror of the Sea 

Nigger of the Narcissus 


Outcast of the Islands 


Conrad, Joseph Continued 
writings of, listed Contimied 
Outpost of Progress 
Planter of Malta, 
Secret Agent 
Secret Sharer 
Set of Six 
Shadow Line 

Smile of Fortune 
Some Reminiscences 
Tales of Unrest 
'T-wixt Land and Sea 

Under Western Eyes 
Contemporary Critic 

author, Garnett, 159, 170, 175, 179 
Cooper, James F. 
books of, sent to David Garnett, 

183-184, 185 
Cornhill Magazine, 65, 67, 70, 72 

see also, Smith Elder and Company 
Corot, Jean B. C., 143 
Costa. Rica, 231-232 
Courtney, W L , 16, 213, 246 
Crane, Stephen, 11-12, 26, 115, 118, 

biography of, 290 

Conrad's article, 291 
Conrad's appreciation of, 119 
Conrad's article on, 276 
Garnett's article on, 148 
Man and Some Others, 119 
Open Boat, 119 
visited by Conrads, 130 
Crawford, Oswald, 112, 115 

Crockett, S R., 3 

Cunnmghame- Graham, R B , 101, 
118, 126, 127, 128, 130, 136, 
138, 142, 155, 188 
Garnett's letter sent to, 137 
Ipane, 137 
ship command for Conrad sought, 

Curie, Richard, 242 

Daily Marl 

Censor of Plays, by Conrad, 208 
Daily News 

Conrad, article on, 212-213 
Daudet, Alphonse, 36 

Conrad's article on, 130 
Davies, W. H., 223 
Dent, J M and Son 

letter from Conrad regarding Hud- 
son, 286 
Desperate Character 

author, Turgenev, 156-157, 162 
Dostoievsky, Feodor 

Brothers Karamazov, 240 
Douglas, Morman, 193 

Syren Land, 226 

censorship, Conrad's views, 205- 

Dream Tales and Prose Poems 

author, Turgenev, 98 
Duckworth, E G. 

Art of Wmnifred Matthews, 182 
Duel, 13, 215 

intended name, Masters of Europe, 

Dynamite, 138 

Eastern Seas 

Conrad's life on, 4 
Eldest Son 

author, Galsworthy, 220 
End of the Tether, 180, 181, 182, 
184, 212 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

English Review, 216 

Father and Children 

author, Turgenev, 148 

author, Garnett, 193, 218-219 
Flaubert, Gustave, 25 
Forecastle, suggested title, 87 
France, Anatole, 188 
Freya of the Seven Isles, 222, 243 

refused for serialization, 230, 231 

theme of, 231-232 

Friday Nights, Literary Criticisms 
and. Appreciations 

author, Garnett, 4, 283 


author, Voynich, 113, 131 
Galsworthy, John IS, 128, 157, 190 

desire to meet Garnett, 149 

Eldest Son, 220 

From the Four Corners, 90-91 

Joy, 210 

Patrician, 229 

Reminiscences of Joseph Conrad, 


Garland, Hamlin, 289 
Garnett, Constance 

see, Garnett, Edward (Mrs ) 
Garnett, David 

compass received from Conrad, 191 

Cooper's books sent to, 183-184, 

Duel, copy sent to, 215, 216, 217 

Lady into Fox, 286-287, 302 

Man at the Zoo, 301-302 

marriage, 279 
Garnett, Edward 

Academy article on Conrad, 4, 146, 
183, 184 

Academy article on Crane, 148 

All-Highest, 259 

American publication of critical 
articles, 279 


Garnett, Edward Continued 
Appreciation of Mr Joseph Con- 
ma, 4, 146 
Author's note in Outcast of the 

Islands, 4 
Breaking Point, 195-203, 205-207, 


Century Company, 229 
Christmas Play for Children, 149 
Conrad, first meeting described, 1, 

Contemporary Cntic, 159, 170, 

175, 179 

"father in letters" of Conrad, 70 
Feud, 193, 218-219 
Friday Nights Literary Crtttcisms 

and Appreciations, 4, 283 
Hogarth, 220-221 
Hudson, friendship between, 280 
Ibsen article, 157 
illness of, 50-53, 55 
Imaged World, 31, 32, 62, 86, 114 
Letters from W. H. Hudson, 295, 

London, unfinished MS., 83-85, 88, 


Lords and Masters, 235 
McClure, meeting of, 145-146, 147 

Conrad to meet, 114 
copyright issue of Nigger of the 

Narcissus, 103-104, 113, 116- 


Nietzsche article, 157, 158 
novel considered, 273 
Outcast of the Islands 

manuscript read, 7, 33 
Outpost of Progress dedicated to, 

62, 65 

Papa's War, 256, 261 
publication of work, 281 
Satires on the War, 256 
Spanish Lovers adapted from La 

Celestina, 241 


Garnett, Edward Continued 
Tolstoi, A Study, 244 
Tnal of Jeanne d'Arc, 222, 223, 

224-226, 227, 242 
Truth's Welcome Home, 258 
Turgenev, A Study, 252, 253 
Unwin, association with, broken, 


Garnett, Edward (Mrs ) 
Tchekov, 283 
Dostoievsky, 230, 240 
Tolstoi, 100, 181, 240 
Turgenev, 45, 98, 120-121, 156- 

157, 163, 240, 248 
Garnett, Olive 

author, Petersburg Tales, 173 
Caspar Ruiz, 211 
George, Jessie (Miss) 
Conrad's fiancde, 17 
Gibbon, P , 221 
Graham, Anderson, 212-213 
Graves, Charles L , 56, 75 
Grey, Edward 
Week in Paris, 258 

Haggard, Rider, 9 

Harris, Frank, 126, 127, 128, 130 

Harte, Bret, 74 

Headlam, Walter, 75-76 

Heart of Darkness,, 2, 14, 180 

Garnett's opinion sought, 153 

in Blackwood's Magazine, 27, ISO 
Heath, E. M, (Miss), 12 
Hememann, William, 73, 104 

criticism of Nigger of the Narcis- 
sus, 113 

in New York, 132 

Pawling, partnership, 22 
Henley, W. S., 16, 22, 35, 53, 71, 

81, 93, 148 
History of a Stn 

author, Zeromski, 280 
Hobbes, John Oliver, 3 


author, Garnett, 220-221 
Hope, G. F W , 11, 61, 92, 93, 94, 

Hudson, W H. 

Conrad's acquaintance with, 286 

death of, 285 

Letters from, 295, 296 
Hueffer, Christina, 235 
Hueffer, Ford Madox, 239 

joint authorship with Conrad, 168- 

169, 176-177, 180 
Hueffers, 152, 154, 214 

Ibsen, Hennk, 157 

Idiots, 18, 54, 55, 56, 60, 12 

II Conde, 211 

Imaged World, 62, 114 

Conrad's comment upon, 32, 86 
Informer, 211, 213 
Ingpen, Roger, 21, 75 
Inheritors, 168-169, 176-177 

author, Cunninghame- Graham, 137 

James, Henry, 25, 70, 74 

letter to Conrad, 172 

luncheon with Conrad, 91 

Spoils of Poynton, 89 
James, Humphrey 

author, Paddy's Woman, 118 
Jean-Aubry, M G., 1, 8, 13 
Jeanne d'Arc, Tnal of, 224-226, 227, 


author, Turgenev, 163 

author, Galsworthy, 210 

Retrain, 23-24, 88, 91, 92, 95 

publishing terms, 99-100 


appearance as, arranged, 102 
use as, suggested, 25, 97, 231 


Letters 'from Joseph Conrad 


see, Anna Karenina 
Kipling, Rudyard, 9 

Conrad's article on, 130 
KochanowskT, John, 164 

La Celestina. 

Spanish Lovers adapted from, 241 
Lady into Fox 

author, David Garnett, 286-287, 


Lagoon, 18, 65, 67 
Land and Water, 262, 264 
Lang, Andrew, 206 
Lear of the Steppes 

author, Turgenev, 212 
Life and Letters, Notes on, 282 
Limerick, Mona, 252 
Liza of Lambeth 

author, Maugham, 114 

Garnett's unfinished MS, 83-85, 

Lord Jim, 164, 169, 171-172 

considered for short story volume, 

Garnett's reading of, 154, 157, 158, 
160, 171-172 

in Blackwood's Magazine, 27, 138 

manuscript, 168 

popularity, 16 
Lords and Masters 

author, Byrne, 235-238 
Lucas, E V , 56, 87, ISO, 172 
Lutoslawski, Mr, 235 

McCarthy, Justin, 38 
McClure, Robert, 134, 138, 152, 160 
Garnett, meeting between, 145-146, 


McClure, S. S , 161 
Mclntyre, 142 
McKmnel, 274 


Maeterlinck, Maurice, 227 
Man at the Zoo 

author, David Garnett, 301-302 
Manchester Guardian, 184 

Garnett's review, 278, 279 
Marius, 97 
Marris, Charles, 232 
Masefield, John, 220 
Masters of Europe 

name changed to the Duel, 211 
Maugham, W Somerset 

Liza of Lambreth, 114 
Maupassant, Guy de, 25 
Meldrum, 138, 139, 160, 170, 175 
Mirror of the Sea, 13 
Muirhead, 290 
Munro, Neil, 143, 144 

National Liberal Club, 3, 6 
Nietzsche, Fnednch W, 157, 158 
Nigger of the Narcissus, 21, 78, 172, 


American edition, 137 
American rights bought, 98 
commendation of, 97, 113, 122-123, 


Conrad's wish regarding the elder 
Mrs Garnett, 103-104, 113, 

Graham wished to review, 128 
manuscript of, 1, 22, 72, 74, 80, 83 
popularity, 16 
preface, 101, 102, 120 
publishing of, 26, 101, 105-106, 


first copies out, 118 
serial form considered, 71, 77, 98 
Northchffe, Lord, 285 
Nostromo, 188 
an appreciation of, 216 
publisher, Harper, 187 
re-issue of, 254 
writing of, finished, 190 



Chance reviewed in, 15 
Outcast of the Islands, 172, 273 

characters in, 33, 34-35, 39-43 

Garnett, reference to, 4 

manuscript of, 1, 7, 8, 33 

popularity, 16 

publishing terms, 21 

reviews of, S3 

revisions of, 16 

Conrad's articles for, 130 

Garnett's articles for, 157 
Outport of Progress, 18, 19, 63, 64 

cntcism, 66-67 

dedicated to Garnett, 62, 65 
Overseas Library, 137 

Paddy's Woman 

author, James, 118 
Paderewski, Ignace, 144 
Papa's War 

author, Garnett, 256, 261 

author, Galsworthy, 229 
Pawling, S S 81, 103, 110, 125 

check sent to Conrad, 94-95 

Conrad and Crane introduced, 26 

Conrad's opinion of, 113 

in correspondence with Cunning- 
hame-Graham, 126 

publishing of Conrad's work, 79, 

86, 87, 88, 92, 116, 121, 275 
advice asked, 21, 78 
Scribners, 126-127, 131, 132 

Rescue read in part by, 98 

visit to Conrad, 97, 98, 99 
Payn, James, 16 
Pent Farm, 144, 145 
Petersburg Tales 

author, Olive Garnett, 173 
Pinker, Eric, 290 
Pinker, J B. 

publication of Garnett's work, 281 

Planter of Malta., 246 
Quiller-Couch, A. T., 16, 122, 126 

Rescue, 46, 48, 81 
fragments of theme, 14, 63-64 
manuscript, 98, 263 
author's composition of, 2, 18, 
19, 20, 21, 26, 61, 112, 115, 
130, 139, 268 

Garnett's reading of, 1, 54-55, 
56-59, 124-125, 140, 259, 262, 
266, 267 
length of, 141 
Pawling, first part reviewed by, 

publishing of, 76, 270 

Scnbners, 126-127, 131, 132 
serial form, 77, 103, 109, 120, 

126, 138, 152 
title changed, 104 

see, Rescue 
Return, 26, 98, 103, 106, 107-109, 


Conrad's idea of, 128-129 
in short story volume, 105 
Rice, David, 16 
Roberts, Mr, 257 
Romance, 180 

Rover, 284, 295-296, 297-300 
Rutherford, Mark, 190 

Sanderson, Helen (Mrs), 76, 158 
Saturday Review, 126 
Sauter, 158 

Conrad asked to contribute, 62 
Scribners, 127, 131, 132 
Seaman, 138 
Secret Agent, 14, 204, 205, 274 

performance of, 287-289 
Secret Sharer, 243 


Letters from Joseph Conrad 

Set of Stx 

Conrad's opinion, 211-213 

Garnett'a review, 213-214 
Shadow Line, 250 

Shaw, George Bernard, 25, 139, 181 
Shorter, 151 
Sisters, 1, 16, 46, 48 
Smile of Fortune, 221 
Smith Elder and Company, 21, 70, 79 

see also, Cornhdl Magazine 
Smith, Reginald, 21, 75, 76, 78 
Some Reminiscences, 219, 239 
Spanish Lovers 

author, Garnett, 241 

Books, Conrad's article, 193 
Stepmak, 2 

Stevenson, Robert L , 9 
Suspense, 280 
Swift, Benjamin 

Tormentor, 114 
Symons, Arthur, 62, 131 
Syren Land 

author, Douglas, 226 

Talcs of Unrest, 26, 69, 105, 128, 130 

comments on, 133-134 

manuscript of, 1 

popularity, 16 
Tarver, 216 
Tchekov, Anton P , 277 

Conrad's appreciation of, 283 
Tennyson, Alfred (Lord), 118 
Third Violet, 277 
Thomas, Edward, 247 
Tolstoi, A Study 

author, Garnett, 244 
Tolstoi, Leo 

Anna Karenina, 181 

translator, Mrs. Garnett, 100 

author, Swift, 114 
Torrents of Spring and Other Stories 

author, Turgenev, 120 

Trench, Herbert, 227 
Trial of Jeanne A 1 Arc 

author, Garnett, 224 

Conrad's reading, 222, 223, 224- 

226, 227, 242 
Truth's Welcome Home 

author, Garnett, 258 
Turgenev, A Study 

author, Garnett, 253 

Conrad's preface, 252 
Turgenev, Ivan S. 

Academy article on, 158 

Conrad's appreciation of, 25, 248- 

Desperate Character, 156-157, 162 

Dream Tales and Prose Poems, 
translation, 98 

Father and Children, 148 

Jew, 163 

Lear of the Steppes, 212 

Torrents of Spring and Other 
Stories, 120 

translator, Mrs. Garnett, 45, 98, 


Twain, Mark, 99 
'Twht Land and Sea, 241, 243 
Typhoon, 180, 211-212 

Under Western Eyes 
Conrad's opinion, 232-235 
manuscript, 214, 222 
Unwin, T Fisher, 2, 3, 5, 6, 16, 21, 

Conrad's inquiry about Garnett, 

52, 60 
Garnett's association with, broken, 


Karam, publishing terms, 99-100 
publishing agreement with Conrad> 

69, 70-72 

Volkhovsky, 2 
Voymch, E 
Gadfly, 113, 131 


^ Index 

Waldstein, Dr, 75 Willard, Mrs, 253 
Walpole, H S , 

biography of Conrad, 248 Yeats, W B , 6 

Watt, A P, 73, 74 Youth, ISO, 212 

Week in Pans in Blackwood's Magazine, 27 

author, Grey, 258 popularity, 16 

Wells, H G 158, 181 reviewed by Garnett, 183, 184 

reviewer of Outcast of the Islands 

Wernher, Juhus (Sir), 212 Zeromski 

Whistler, James A , 143 History of a Sin, 280